Judge puts ROFR law on hold in Iowa


While some Oklahoma legislators and major utilities are considering a legislative push in the coming months to possibly create a Right of First Refusal law, a judge in Iowa has set aside that state’s ROFR law and regulation.

The ruling came from an Iowa District Court judge for Polk County and also included a move to bar the state from issuing permits on projects and intervenors from any action on their MISO assigned projects.

It remains unclear how such a ruling might give pause or reconsideration of possible efforts to create a similar law in Oklahoma. Two bills were filed in the 2023 legislative session but eventually were pulled. However, ROFR laws were the subjects a few months ago of a legislative interim study hearing and a study by the Oklahoma Corporaton Commission.

The Iowa ruling drew immediate praise from a national organization that opposes ROFR laws which allow utilities to proceed with major transmission line projects without competitive bidding.

Paul Cicio, head of the Electricity Transmission Competition Coalition said the ruling was correct, adding that Iowa’s ROFR law was anti-consumer, anti-competitive and anti-free market.

“ This decisive court action is a victory for consumers – and will lower electricity costs for Iowa families and businesses. We look forward to seeing MISO conduct a competitive process for the Iowa projects in short order.”

In March, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction on the ROFR law, noting that the bill lacked the votes to pass without “logrolling” and calling it “quintessentially crony capitalism.”

In its ruling Tuesday, the District Court:

  • Permanently enjoined operation or enforcement of the ROFR law.
  • Permanently enjoined the Iowa Utilities Board from taking any additional action, or relying on prior actions, related to any and all electric transmission line projects in Iowa that were claimed under the ROFR law.
  • Permanently enjoined intervenors MidAmerican Energy Company and ITC Midwest LLC from taking any additional action on transmission line projects claimed under the ROFR, including LRTP-7 (Webster-Franklin-Marshalltown-Morgan Valley); LRTP-8 (Beverly-Sub 92); LRTP-9 (Orient-Denny-Fairport); LRTP-12 (Madison-Ottumwa-Skunk River); and LRTP-13 (Skunk River–Ipava).
  • Declared that the permanent injunction does not prohibit the intervenors, if reassigned the above referenced projects, through competitive processes or otherwise in a manner not relying on the ROFR law, from seeking approval from the State to move forward with the previously claimed projects.