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Indy utility plans $511 million in power plant upgrades

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 An Indiana power company plans to spend more than a half-billion dollars to reduce its mercury emissions to comply with new federal regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Indianapolis Power & Light Co. said Tuesday the $511 million in upgrades at plants at the Harding Street Station in Indianapolis and in Petersburg in southwestern Indiana are part of its effort to meet EPA rules designed to curb toxic emissions from oil- and coal-fired power plants, which are the largest remaining sources of manmade mercury in the environment. The EPA rules are expected to be fully implemented by 2016.

IPL's proposal must be approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. IPL is also asking the state to approve a rate increase to cover the cost of the project, expected to take about three years to complete.

Greg Fennig, vice president of community relations for IPL, said ratepayers could expect a 2-percent to 3-percent annual increase for a "number of years" but said he did not know how long the increases would be in effect.

"There are a number of utilities making investments in this arena," said Danielle McGrath, a spokeswoman for the state's utility regulatory commission. "Every utility is going to be unique in terms of what the situation is and what the request is."

IPL is also discussing shutting down some of its older and smaller coal units, including the Eagle Valley plant near Martinsville, Fennig said.

"In order to be compliant with the new mercury rules, we're doing these upgrades and then we're looking at a plan that has a possibility of shutting down (those units)," he said.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that accumulates in the food chain and can pose a threat to people who eat fish tainted with the metal. It can impair neurological development in fetuses, infants and children, according to the EPA.

"People can live and be healthy with some level of mercury in their bodies, but it really has an impact on a developing fetus," said Bowden Quinn, conservation director for the Hoosier chapter of the Sierra Club.

U.S. Geological Survey studies have found elevated levels of mercury in Indiana's rivers and streams and the fish that live in those waterways.

Much of that is traced to emissions from Indiana's coal-fired power plants. In 2011, Indiana got about 85 percent of its electricity from such plants, Quinn said.

The new EPA standards are estimated to cut mercury pollution from coal by 90 percent, lung-damaging acid gases by 88 percent and soot-producing sulfur dioxide by 41 percent.

IPL has about 470,000 customers in Indianapolis and surrounding counties.

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  • What about everyone else's choice?
    DRT, you can use as much electricity as you want. But you're not allowed to dirty everyone's air and water to do so. Why do you think anyone should have a choice to pollute freely while that prevents everyone else from having the ability to choose to have clean air and water?
  • $$
    Thanks, idyllic, I will gladly send you a bill for the difference in my energy since you have volunteered to pay that increased amount. Unfortunately I am not given that choice. The federal government is deciding that for me. And Joe, who says the costs of electricity are cheap? Compared to what? Who decides it's cheap, or too cheap? Certainly not the market. Who says this causes extreme health impacts and environmental degradation? The government? The same government that is using that argument to justify this? Why can't I decide? Why can't power companies decide if the upgrades are worth it to themselves? Who says I am wasting energy? What is considered a waste? Who decides? Not me, I guess. So, at what point will the costs stop increasing? Or will that happen until energy becomes so expensive I won't be able to afford it because I've reduced all my waste? Who says my electricity is at an extreme use? The government? Apparently it's the government's right to decide how much energy is extreme. If people wanted a cleaner power plant or a power plant with cleaner upgrades wouldn't a power company, in its best interest, build one? Why can't consumers decide if the costs are worth it to them to support a cleaner power plant? Why does the government decide and under who's authority? I'm glad big brother is there to tell me how clean my energy should be and how much more I should have to pay for it. I would hate for a free exchange that would give individuals the power to choose for themselves.
  • DRT.....
    It is a tax on all when health impacts are considered. You are substituting relatively cheap internal costs for electricity while the externalities are extreme health impacts and mass environmental degradation. It is true that this will be more expenisve for energy, but you can simply reduce your waste to avoid cost increases. Imagine if you had a child with asthma, and the sulfur and carbon being pumped into the air from others extreme electricity usage caused your child's lungs to close........how much is that worth to you?
  • More please
    If this is tax, then tax me more please. I'll gladly pay taxes to have cleaner air and water.
  • $$
    How much more in increased fees will this bring the consumer? This is basically another federal tax increase slipped under the table in the name of saving the environment.

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