Regulation and Air Quality and Energy & Environment and Environment

Councilors to IPL: Eliminate coal in county by 2020

July 14, 2014

Two City-County Council members want Indianapolis Power & Light Co. to stop burning coal in Marion County by 2020 and shift more attention to renewable energy.

Councilors Zach Adamson, at-large, and William “Duke” Oliver, 10th District, on Monday evening introduced a resolution calling on IPL to work with the council and the Indianapolis Office of Sustainability to shift away from coal.

The resolution takes aim at the electric utility’s Harding Street plant, where the largest boiler is expected to keep burning coal until at least 2034. The councilors, both Democrats, noted that IPL is converting two smaller units at the plant to natural gas.

“Indianapolis is a great city that deserves a bright future – one that includes clean air and water, and more clean, renewable energy,” Adamson said in a prepared statement. “Yet, for far too long, Indianapolis Power & Light’s Harding Street coal-fired power plant has threatened our community with toxic pollution.”

Although IPL plans to keep burning coal at the 427-megawatt generator, the company is moving forward with about $50 million in state-approved plans to upgrade the boiler, said IPL spokeswoman Brandi Davis-Handy. The pollution controls should reduce mercury emissions by 85 percent, the company predicts.

The Harding Street project is part of more than $1 billion in total work that IPL plans to help it meet upcoming environmental regulations. The changes include a mix of moving some facilities to natural gas and upgrading existing coal units. Rates will go up 2 percent to 3 percent to cover the costs of the work.

The utility chose the projects because they were the “lowest-cost options for customers,” Davis-Handy said.

Some environmental groups would rather see a complete shutdown of the plant.

Adamson and Oliver, on Monday, pressed IPL to work more closely with the council and sustainability office to develop a plan that relies more on energy-efficiency and conservation.

Power companies in all other major Midwestern cities have either stopped burning coal or implemented plans to shift away from it, they said.

“When we see something wrong in our community, we need to speak up for what’s right,” Oliver said. “… My constituents in Center Township know about coal pollution. The prevailing winds in Indianapolis carry air pollution from Harding Street right into the neighborhoods I represent.

“Right now, IPL plans to continue burning coal at Harding Street until 2034. That’s 20 more years of burning coal and polluting our community. Our resolution calls on IPL to develop a better plan that doesn’t harm the health of Indianapolis residents and cleans up our air and protects our water.”

IPL customers also have a chance on Friday to weigh in on the utility’s plans, Davis-Handy noted. The company will have a public meeting from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Barnes and Thornburg LLP’s downtown Indianapolis office, 11 S. Meridian St. Attendees need to register for the meeting.

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