MidAmerican Energy

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MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.
Type Subsidiary
Headquarters 666 Grand Ave., Ste. 500
Des Moines, IA 50309
Area served CA, IA, ID, IL, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY
Key people Gregory E. Abel, CEO
Industry Electric Producer & Utility
Natural Gas Distributor
Real Estate
Products Electricity, Natural Gas
Revenue $12.4 billion (2007)[1]
Net income N/A
Employees 17,200 (2007)
Parent Berkshire Hathaway
Subsidiaries MidAmerican Energy
CE Electric UK
CalEnergy Generation
Kern River Gas Transmission
Northern Natural Gas
HomeServices of America
InterCoast Capital
Midwest Capital Group
Pacific Power
Rocky Mountain Power
CE Generation LLC
CE Int'l Investments
CE Electric (NY)
CalEnergy Pacific Holding Corp.
Website MidAmericanEnergy.com

MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company -- now known as Berkshire Hathaway Energy -- through its subsidiaries, engages in the generation, transmission, storage, distribution, and supply of energy. It generates energy from coal, natural gas, geothermal, wind, and hydroelectric resources.

The company owns and operates an electric utility company in the western United States; a combined electric and natural gas utility company in the midwestern United States; natural gas pipeline companies in the United States; electricity distribution companies in Great Britain; a diversified portfolio of domestic and international independent power projects; and a residential real estate brokerage firm in the United States. It sells natural gas and transportation services to utilities, marketers, municipalities, and end-use customers. The company’s real estate services include mortgage originations, title and closing services, property and casualty insurance, home warranties, and other home-related services.

Since 2006, PacifiCorp has been a wholly owned subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings.[2]

As of December 31, 2007, MidAmerican served approximately 6.2 million electricity customers and end users, as well as approximately 0.7 million natural gas customers; operated approximately 17,000 miles of pipeline in operation; and had interests in approximately 17,000 net owned megawatts of power generation facilities in operation and under construction.

MidAmerican Energy Holdings, formerly known as CalEnergy Company, Inc., was founded in 1971 and changed its name to MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company in 1999. The company is based in Des Moines, Iowa.

As of January 31, 2008, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company operated as a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.[3]


MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company spent $225,000 on its in-house lobbying team during 2008. The registered lobbyists were Craig Montesano, Jonathan Weisgall and Jay Carriere. (Carriere was only working on the account during the first two quaters of the year).[4]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company has been a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It sponsored ALEC's 1998 annual meeting.[5]

The company confirmed to Greenpeace in May 2014 that it had cut ties to ALEC.[6] Please see Corporations that Have Cut Ties to ALEC for more.

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our ExposedbyCMD.org site.

Power portfolio

Out of its total 14,411 megawatts (MW) of electric generating capacity in 2005 (1.35% of the U.S. total), MidAmerican produced 71.3% from coal, 15.3% from natural gas, 7.9% from hydroelectricity, 2.6% from geothermal, 2.5% from wind, and 0.4% from oil. MidAmerican owns power plants in California, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.[7]

Existing coal-fired power plants

In 2005, MidAmerican Energy (and, through them, Berkshire Hathaway) owned 11 coal-fired power plants with 29 generating units totalling 10,282 MW of capacity. Here is a list of MidAmerican's coal power plants:[7][8][9]

Loading map...
Plant Name State County Year(s) Built Capacity 2007 CO2 Emissions 2006 SO2 Emissions
Jim Bridger WY Sweetwater 1974, 1975, 1976, 1979 2318 MW 16,500,000 tons 20,055 tons
George Neal IA Woodbury 1964, 1972, 1975, 1979 1686 MW 5,974,000 tons 37,979 tons
Hunter UT Emery 1978, 1980, 1983 1472 MW 10,600,000 tons 7,338 tons
Huntington UT Emery 1974, 1977 996 MW 6,170,000 tons 17,405 tons
Council Bluffs IA Pottawattamie 1954, 1958, 1978 856 MW 6,010,000 tons 17,523 tons
Dave Johnston WY Converse 1959, 1961, 1964, 1972 817 MW 6,959,000 tons 22,351 tons
Louisa IA Louisa 1983 738 MW 5,340,000 tons 15,937 tons
Naughton WY Lincoln 1963, 1968, 1971 707 MW 5,778,000 tons 20,664 tons
Wyodak WY Campbell 1978 362 MW 3,475,000 tons 6,514 tons
Carbon UT Carbon 1954, 1957 189 MW 1,243,000 tons 6,121 tons
Riverside IA Scott 1949, 1961 141 MW 981,000 tons 5,275 tons
Ottumwa IA Ottumwa 1981 726 MW 5,394,214 tons 14,172 tons tons

In 2006, MidAmerican's 11 coal-fired power plants emitted 69.0 million tons of CO2 (1.15% of all U.S. CO2 emissions) and 177,000 tons of SO2 (1.18% of all U.S. SO2 emissions).

Council Bluffs Energy Center Unit 4 is an operational coal plant near Council Bluffs, Iowa and the Missouri River that began operating in 2007.

Proposed coal unit closures

Wyoming: Naughton Power Plant

In its April 2012 filing, PacifiCorp announced its intention to stop burning coal at Naughton Power Plant unit 3. PacifiCorp is debating converting the plant to natural gas, primarily to serve summer peak load in Utah and Wyoming.[10]

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from MidAmerican Energy coal plants

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[11] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[12]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from MidAmerican Energy coal plants

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 234 $1.7 billion
Heart attacks 362 $39.7 million
Asthma attacks 4,305 $0.22 million
Chronic bronchitis 152 $67.5 million
Asthma ER visits 229 $.08 million
Hospital admissions 167 $3.9 million

Source: "Health Impacts - annual - of Existing Plants," Clean Air Task Force Excel worksheet, available under "Data Annex" at "Death and Disease from Power Plants," Clean Air Task Force. Note: This data includes the following plants owned by MidAmerican Energy and subsidiary PacifiCorp: Council Bluffs Energy Center, Laramie River Station, Louisa Generating Station, Riverside Generating Station (Iowa), Ottumwa Generating Station, Dave Johnston, Jim Bridger, Carbon, Hunter, Huntington, Naughton, and Wyodak.

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010, a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice, "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment," reported that Iowa had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash.[13]The report identified 39 coal combustion waste (CCW) disposal sites in 21 states that have contaminated groundwater or surface water with toxic metals and other pollutants based on monitoring data and other information available in state agency files.

The report built on an earlier 2010 report by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, "Out of Control: Mounting Damages from Coal Ash Waste Sites", which documented similar damage at another 31 coal combustion waste dumpsites in 14 states. When added to the 67 damage cases that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has already acknowledged, the total number of sites polluted by coal ash or coal scrubber sludge comes to at least 137 in 34 states.

The latter report listed Iowa's George Neal Station South and George Neal Station North were two sites that have groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[14] "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment" found that the coal ash site for the George Neal Station North had exceeded the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for arsenic at all six wells since 2011, at levels 22 times the MCL. In 2010, MCL for arsenic was exceeded in 15 wells. High levels of iron, manganese and sulfate were also in groundwater downgradient from the monofill.[15]

MidAmerican annual toxins release

A Center for American progress (CAP) analysis of 2009 Toxics Release Inventory data found that MidAmerican’s power plants in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Utah and Wyoming released a total of nearly 7,000 pounds of lead and mercury into the air.

MidAmerican Energy’s 2009 toxics by the pound included:

  • 1.8 million pounds of acid gases emitted, which the American Lung Association reports trigger “irritation to skin, eye, nose throat, [and] breathing passages.”
  • 4,063 pounds of lead emitted, which affects kidney function, the nervous system, immune system, reproductive and development systems, as well as the cardiovascular system and oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, according to the EPA.
  • 2,689 pounds of mercury emitted, which harm vital organs and brain function, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility.[16]

Coal Plant Cancellations

In 2007, PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy, cancelled six proposed coal-fired power plants. These included Utah's Intermountain Power Project Unit 3, Jim Bridger Unit 5, and four proposed plants previously included in PacifiCorp's Integrated Resource Plan. The cancellations came in the wake of pressure from regulators and citizen groups, including a petition drive organized by Salt Lake City commercial real estate broker Alexander Lofft and directed at Buffett personally. The 1,600 petitioners, who described themselves in a letter to Buffett as "a collection of citizens, business owners and managers, service professionals, public servants, and organization representatives ... your friends and new customers here in Utah," explained that, in their view, any further expansion of coal generation in Utah would "compromise our health, obscure our viewsheds, shrink and contaminate our watersheds, and thin out our most beloved snowpack," concluding that "our attractiveness as a place to live and work is also threatened, and so is our economic competitiveness as a major metro area and a state, compromising our recent gains in income and property values."[17]

Existing Coal Mines

Proposed nuclear plant

As of 2011, MidAmerican Energy is pursuing legislation to build a small nuclear plant in Iowa. At 540 megawatts, it would be among the nation's smallest. The Iowa House's version of the nuclear power bill, House File 561, is on debate in April 2011. The Midwest grid has as much as 10,000 megawatts of surplus power, raising questions about whether the state needs additional power plants. MidAmerican said that it is required by law to provide power to its customers, and buying it off the grid is expensive, while surplus power can be sold to other utilities. Environmental groups say the utility should be focused more on beefing up energy conservation programs and building on some solid investments in wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.[18]

Renewable energy

In May 2013, Iowa Gov. Branstad announced MidAmerican Energy will make a $1.9 billion investment in Iowa for wind energy projects, adding up to 1,050 megawatts of up to 656 new wind turbines in the state by year-end 2015. According to MidAmerican officials, the expansion will add no net cost to customers and will help stabilize electric rates over the long term by providing a rate reduction totaling $10 million per year by 2017, commencing with a $3.3 million reduction in 2015.[19]

Articles and Resources


  1. Facts & Figures, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company website, accessed July 2008.
  2. PacifiCorp Facts, PacifiCorp, accessed July 27, 2007.
  3. MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., BusinessWeek Company Insight Center, accessed July 2008.
  4. "MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company", Center for Public Integrity, accessed September 2009.
  5. American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC 25th Annual Meeting Agenda, organizational document, August 18-22, 1998, accessed via the Tobacco Library.
  6. Greenpeace, Greenpeace Confirms Six Utilities Quietly Dumped ALEC, organizational blog post, May 1, 2014.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration, accessed April 2008.
  8. Environmental Integrity Project, Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants, July 2007.
  9. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  10. Bob Jenks, "CUB Applauds Coal Shut Down, Demands Better Analysis of Coal Investment," Citizens Utility Board, April 18, 2012.
  11. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  12. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  13. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.
  14. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.
  15. Jeff Stant, "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment," EarthJustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and Sierra Club report, August 26, 2010.
  16. "Warren Buffet’s Utility, MidAmerican, Wants to Keep Polluting" Climate Progress, June 15, 2011.
  17. "The Education of Warren Buffett: Why did the guru cancel six coal plants?" Ted Nace, Gristmill, April 15, 2008
  18. Perry Beeman, "Utilities seek two plants; does Iowa need them?" Des Moines Register, April 25, 2011.
  19. "MidAmerican to make $1.9 billion investment in wind energy," Des Moines Register, May 8, 2013.

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