Former Iowa governor lobbying officials over renewable energy projects

Source: By KCRG • Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is meeting with local officials across the state over large-scale renewable energy projects like those planned in Coggon and Palo, KCRG reports.

Those meetings, which officials told us felt like a listening session, are part of the governor’s new role as national co-chair and Iowa State chairman for The Center for Infrastructure and Economic Development.

Large employers are working together to lobby regulators over large-scale renewable energy projects, according to documents at the Iowa Utilities Board.

Documents show the group, which describes itself as a nonprofit and not an advocacy group, pushing renewable resources and offering model ordinances and zoning regulations online.

Ross Branson worked at the Department of Commerce during the Trump Administration and as the chief of staff for two Republican congressmembers, according to his bio before becoming the group’s executive director. He said in an email the group’s goal is to provide information to local lawmakers.

“We look to provide relevant and useful information regarding these complex policies and provide experts to help address technical aspects in renewable energy policy development,” he wrote.

Photos the group has shared on Facebook and Twitter show the group has met with officials in Fayette, Johnson, Marshall, Clinton and Woodbury counties.

Branson hasn’t responded to our KCRG′s questions about those backing the group, but an email KCRG received said Gov. Branstad helped launch the group.

Large employers in Iowa, which include Fortune 500 companies, are also trying to influence policy around large-scale renewable energy projects through filings with regulators.

One group is called the Large Energy Group. The organization’s members include Ingredion, International Paper, Mercy Medical Center, Pepsi Quaker Oats, Collins Aerospace, UnityPoint – St. Luke’s Hospital, Treehouse Foods, Hormel Foods, IFF Genencor and other businesses, according to documents from the Iowa Utilities Board.

Sarah Corizzo, who is a spokesperson for the UnityPoint – St. Luke’s Hospital, said UnityPoint Health has been apart of the group for many years. She said the hospital’s membership gives it a voice in requesting the Iowa Utilities Board keep rates low and in some cases works on a rate increase compromise in a written statement.

It’s goal is similar to another group called the Iowa Business Energy Coalition. According to documents from the Iowa Utilities Board, its’ members include Cargill, John Deere and Company and JBS.

Dustin Miller, who is the executive director for the group, said these companies want to make sure they also have a voice in the price of electricity.

“That impacts our business,” he said. “And that’s ultimately our shared goal I would say with the utility is to ensure that affordability and that reliability is there to make our business process competitive.”