A senate committee’s debate of a bill that could set the stage for a new nuclear power plant in Iowa has been delayed ’til next week. Senator Matt McCoy, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, says one senator on the panel is stranded with a broken-down car.

“We need eight votes to move this bill out of committee and he was my eighth vote and could not be here,” McCoy says of Senate Tom Rielly of Oskaloosa, who is absent from the statehouse today.

Opponents of the bill have launched a series of lobbying efforts, including ad campaigns on radio and T.V. as well as a march to the statehouse this weekend. Steve Falck is a lobbyist for the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

“We’re not going to let up,” Falck says. Last year the Iowa House passed a bill that would let MidAmerican Energy collect money from customers to finance construction of a new, underground nuclear power facility. Senator McCoy is touting changes he’ll propose in that legislation, changes he says will protect consumers.

“MidAmerican cannot collect money until the work actually begins on the plant,” McCoy says. McCoy says that’s a major protection for consumers. Opponents, like Falck, disagree.

“This is still a shift in risk,” Falck says, “a giant increase in rates.” MidAmerican Energy officials say as federal rules make coal-fired plants more expensive to operate, nuclear power is the best option to meet rising consumer demand for electricity.