A western Iowa judge has ordered MidAmerican Energy to pay a $27,500 penalty for failing to get the proper state permits for air quality monitoring at the company’s electric plant in Council Bluffs.

Bob Brammer, a spokesman for the state’s attorney general, says smoke, dust and fumes are to be monitored at more than a couple of dozen places within the facility. "It doesn’t just mean something as big as a smoke stack. It can mean something down to a three-inch vent," Brammer says. "…They move coal around and that creates dust and before they vent that, it’s got to be controlled so there might be a small controlled vent that reduces coal dust getting into the air."

In October, MidAmerican advised state officials the company had not obtained the proper permits and had not conducted proper reviews of "emission points" at the Council Bluffs plant. MidAmerican officials say their changes — for which they did not submit the proper paperwork to the state — actually resulted in a decrease in potential emissions from the plant.

Brammer says that’s true, but that’s not the point. "The law requires permits in advance and that’s for good reason. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources needs to have the opportunity to examine plans in advance, evaluate their environmental consequences and if necessary object to them and require changes if they are harming the air and the environment," Brammer says.

MidAmerican says emissions from its Council Bluffs plant are about 38 tons below the annual levels the state authorized in permits granted in 2002.

MidAmerican’s Council Bluffs Energy Center is a coal-fired plant that makes energy from steam.