Iowa is not always an easy place to be working on strengthening environmental laws and protections. Power and politics from both sides of the aisle often align their interests with those with the deepest pockets. Yet it goes further than just influencing policy outcomes—it works to limit the ability of individuals to be informed or involved in deciding our future.
In navigating the energy world over the past two and a half years, I have observed how real debates and issues that occur at a local and state level are often purposefully convoluted and inaccessible to the public whom these issues impact most. The value of having an organization like IEC that works from the inside to translate this information to the public should not be understated. As a watchdog, IEC works to combat attempts to reduce transparency in policymaking.
When successful, this intentional inaccessibility results in representatives advocating for the positions of corporate stakeholders, despite community opposition. This can be attributed to donations that secure corporations’ status as community partners to build political power. The result is that not only are corporations able to leverage their political power in decision-making, but they generate a positive reputation despite their harmful impact on communities.
MidAmerican Energy demonstrates this influence in action. When talks began in 2020 regarding Des Moines’ 24/7 carbon-free energy resolution, some councilors voiced strong objections to passing the resolution without MidAmerican’s revisions to the more aggressive original draft. While the resolution was successfully passed thanks to a determined community response, the ability to reach this goal saw another potential setback in May of this year. Community advocates called for the city to renegotiate its franchise agreement with MidAmerican to include a provision allowing Des Moines to end the agreement in three years if MidAmerican Energy failed to cooperate to meet city goals. Despite pushback, a 13-year agreement was approved 5–1; the contract will extend through 2035, the same year Des Moines is supposed to achieve its 24/7 carbon-free electricity goal.
While it’s disappointing to see representatives continually choose the side of these powerful corporate stakeholders, particularly those representatives touted as “climate leaders,” we cannot diminish the importance of local advocacy in preventing a worse outcome. Supporting work that generates attention and action on these issues means supporting the public’s right to be involved in decision-making. It also lets our representatives know that we care about the decisions that impact us. The more we continue to raise awareness, the harder it becomes for elected officials to get off the hook for failing to do their job of representing public interest.
By staying connected and involved with groups like IEC, you are supporting ongoing efforts to ensure that the decisions that impact the public are also influenced by the public’s will. By taking action through our action alerts, attending events, and reading our various publications, you are ensuring that Iowa’s laws work for you. This goes beyond just IEC’s work, but applies to all of the other organizations working to foster political transparency, community involvement, and awareness for the broad spectrum of issues facing our state. By uplifting the work of these other organizations, IEC is able to stay focused on carrying out our mission while acknowledging that we are part of a larger movement working for a better future.