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Iowa Utilities Board staff ruling mostly favors Alliant Energy in City of Decorah's complaint

Posted: Sat, Sep 5, 2020 11:22 AM

Staff from the Iowa Utilities Board issued a ruling late Friday on the City of Decorah's complaint that Alliant Energy was illegally using the cost of relocating utilities along Locust Road as a way to pressure the city to sign a franchise agreement.

Communities which sign a franchise agreement with Alliant Energy do not have to pay Alliant for Alliant's costs of relocating power lines or other equipment.  Alliant had estimated it would charge the City of Decorah $1.5 million for the costs of relocating utilities along Locust Road if there were no franchise agreement.

In Friday's ruling, the IUB staff agreed that Alliant's cost estimate provided to the City of Decorah "is lacking in specificity."  Said the ruling, "Simply providing a two-line item estimate, costs of material and labors charges fails to provide a customer with sufficient detail or reassurance as to what exactly the estimate is based on and what work will be performed at what cost."  The IUB is ordering Alliant to schedule a meeting with City of Decorah officials to answer all questions about the details of the cost estimate.

But in discussing the larger issue of whether Alliant Energy acted inappropriately, the IUB staff sided with Alliant's statement that it acted fairly.  The IUB pointed out that in a 2009 ruling it approved the practice of charging communities for work done if they did not have a franchise agreement.  "Staff does not believe the potential enforcement of an (IUB) approved tariff constitutes an improper threat," it ruled.

Concluded the 9-page IUB staff statement, "Alliant is not threatening the City of Decorah by informing it that without a franchise agreement to supersede its IUB approved tariff, Alliant will enforce the (charges)."

The City of Decorah has 14 days from Friday to determine whether it wants to file a request for a formal proceeding with the Iowa Utilities Board on the issue.