November 04, 2022
On November 3, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Iowa Environmental Council and Sierra Club filed an objection to MidAmerican’s attempt to hide studies of its electricity generating facilities from public view. The groups argue that public deserves to see relevant studies that would shed light on whether MidAmerican’s proposed a $4 billion investment is reasonable compared to alternatives. MidAmerican continues to aggressively attempt to maintain secrecy of the studies.
The objection follows a Motion to Compel on September 2, in which IEC, ELPC, and Sierra Club appealed to the Iowa Utilities Board to order MidAmerican Energy Company to provide the studies. MidAmerican claimed it did not have to share the studies with anyone – even the Utilities Board, which oversees MidAmerican’s operations – because the documents were subject to attorney-client privilege, attorney work product, and self-critical analysis privilege.
Before the Utilities Board ruled on the motion to compel, MidAmerican provided the studies confidentially to numerous parties in the Wind PRIME docket, including ELPC, IEC, and Sierra Club, and the latter groups agreed to withdraw the motion as a result. MidAmerican also filed the studies with the Board, along with an Application for Confidential Treatment to keep the documents confidential in their entirety.
“MidAmerican’s blanket claims of confidentiality should not be allowed to shield non-confidential information that MidAmerican simply does not want the public to know,” said Josh Mandelbaum, senior attorney for ELPC.
The studies contain analysis and conclusions of future generation plans, similar to the type of information that is public in Board proceedings and that other utilities have publicly filed. The November 3 ELPC, IEC, and Sierra Club filing argues that the public has an interest in seeing the high-level conclusions of the studies. Any confidential information can be protected with redactions rather than keeping the entire document confidential.
“MidAmerican’s claim seems less about protecting privilege or confidentiality and more about excluding relevant evidence from public scrutiny,” said Michael Schmidt, staff attorney for the Iowa Environmental Council.
In this recent filing, the environmental groups say that MidAmerican’s confidentiality concerns center around revealing sensitive information to competitors, but MidAmerican has a monopoly for electricity service in its area.
The analyses show how MidAmerican could most cost-effectively transition to a zero-emissions resource mix. No other modeling analysis in the record predates MidAmerican’s development of the Wind PRIME proposal.
“The analyses provide information important to understanding the most cost-effective way for MidAmerican to achieve a zero emissions future,” said Laurie Williams, senior attorney with Sierra Club. “The public should see whether MidAmerican’s internal analysis aligns with its public approach.”
“It is outrageous that the public knows more about the resource plans and decision making of utilities in Texas, Idaho, Mississippi, and Minnesota than we do about MidAmerican, particularly when MidAmerican is requesting the approval of billions of dollars in investment,” added Mandelbaum.