IPL moves to drop coal from Harding Street power plant

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Indianapolis' electricity utility plans to convert its aging Harding Street power plant entirely to natural gas by 2016, after facing growing pressure to do so from environmental groups and politicians.

Indianapolis Power & Light Co. said Friday that it soon would file plans with state regulators to convert the Harding Street plant's coal-fired Unit 7 generator to natural gas.

In May, IPL received approval from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to convert the plant’s two other coal-powered units to natural gas. Unit 7, the largest boiler, was expected to keep burning coal until at least 2034.

The move will add about $1 to the average customer’s monthly bill, an IPL spokewoman told IBJ. The utility serves more than 470,000 customers in Marion and surrounding counties.

CEO Kelly Huntington told the Associated Press that the switch was the “least cost option” for the utility in light of new federal environmental regulations.

“IPL has a commitment to provide affordable electricity, and converting Harding Street Unit 7 to natural gas is the best plan for our customers because it is the reasonable, least cost option,” Huntington said in prepared comments. “Compliance with current and future EPA standards will continue to increase the cost of electricity for our customers.”

As a result of converting Unit 7 to natural gas, the Harding Street coal pile and ash ponds will be closed, IPL said.

Local environmental and citizens advocacy groups hailed the decision after making public demands that IPL cease burning coal at the Harding Street plant on the city’s southwest side.

“We applaud IPL for recognizing the costs and risks that would have accompanied the continued use of dirty coal at Harding Street,” said Kerwin Olson, Executive Director of Citizens Action Coalition. “Ending the use of coal not only benefits the health and environment of our community, but will go a long way in protecting the pocketbooks of ratepayers.”

Environmental groups have quoted EPA statistics saying that Harding Street’s coal-fired operations were responsible for 88 percent of the toxic industrial pollution released in 2012 in Marion County.

In July, City-County Councilors Zach Adamson and Wlliam “Duke” Oliver introduced a resolution calling on IPL to work with the council and the Indianapolis Office of Sustainability to shift away from coal.

Jodi Perras of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign says more than 55 local groups passed resolutions urging IPL to retire the plant that's long been Indianapolis' biggest industrial polluter.

She says "today, those calls have been answered." But Perras says the Sierra Club and other groups will now focus on ensuring coal ash around the plant is cleaned up.


  • Misinformed
    I read a post from another misinformed person that probably sees a large plume coming out of a stack and assumes it is smoke. It is steam from a very expensive scrubber system that removes 97% of the sulphur. I feel sorry for people who don't understand the power industry and the huge benefits of this natural resource
  • Not Smart
    Customers do not understand the costs! Coal has been priced out of the market by the regulations. Sierra Club received a 26 million dollar donation from one of the US largest gas drillers. It's too late now. IPL has to follow the new laws passed illegally through executive orders. EPA are not supposed to create laws. They were put in place to enforce them. It's all political! Don't be fooled!
  • "at the mercy of the 'man'"
    Believe what you wish. I believe: Anytime you give money for a product you are at the mercy of the man. The man, either a small business or a large corp. They are all "the man". Coal, Natural Gas, Gasoline, oil and your daily bar of soap. You are at the mercy of the man. If you don't like the product or the price. Make it yourself or get it from another source.
  • Evidence
  • I'm outraged
    How dare they stop burning coal and convert to burning a cleaner energy source? This is terrible! If we didn't want to live with coal being burned in our city, we'd move somewhere else. Right, everyone?
  • Environmental groups
    This article is reporting that IPL made this decision based on pressure from environmental groups and politicians. I think we all know better and shame on the IBJ for not reporting any other side. If I remember correctly, the politician's plan was solely to conserve more energy and we all know this isn't workable. If it was up to the Sierra Club, we would somehow magically have enough wind to power the entire state. I think this article is so one-sided it is laughable.
  • facts and perpsective, please?
    Scott, when your 90 year roof was built more than half of Indianapolis actually burned coal in their home furnaces to stay warm and alive, and many of the downtown buildings still burned coal back then, without it Indy wouldn't be what it is today. Even the Perry K steam plant downtown burned coal until +-10 years ago. This is a progression of change, and should not be an idealistic indictment of power companies. Unfortunately Indyman is probably right, watch now as we all move to gas and we are more or less at the mercy of the 'man', or even worse a couple of pipeline breaks or terrorist acts, and 87% of have no heat.
    • Or........
      you could just reduce waste and over-use of our resources and the cost would be at or below your current rate.....
    • How about some facts, please?
      Lee, Before you go spewing some soot of your own about how breathing the air around this plant is "equivalent to smoking 2 packs of cigarettes per day", I would appreciate seeing some supporting documentation from an independent lab and not one funded by 'envirosocialists.' As for the rest of you lauding the announcement, mark this day as the day you approved a significant increase in your electricity rates. It may be a dollar a month now, but with so many plants changing over, the natural gas industry will soon have us over a barrel and set the rate at whatever they please and rest assured it won't be less than they are charging now. It looks like it is time for responsible citizens to form a coalition to fight against environmentalist organizations like Citizens Action Coalition and the Sierra Club before they spend us into bankruptcy.
      • pollution, lung cancer
        One has to only pass by the exits in that part of town to realize that people living and working there are breathing a sea of toxic pollutants such as sulphur and others. Wouldn't want to work at any of the trucking companies or other companies at those exits. The combination of pollutants in the air and water from the plant as well as traffic pollution are probably equivalent to smoking 2 packs of cigarettes per day. Anyone running a trucking company right off those exits is putting their employees at risk of breathing and lung issues, even working in offices and warehouses.
        • Hurrah.
          I once replaced a 90-year-old cedar shake roof on a house on Indy's north side. Perhaps the most amazing part was the sheer amount of coal dust and ash locked into it. The house literally groaned with relief of all its weight.
        • $1 is a small price to pay until the price of Nat Gas goes up. If everyone is switching to it, the supply will drop and the price will rise. If there is a disruption in pipelines, especially in the winter, it could get ugly. Take what happened last winter with propane and multiply it many times over. 44% of homes heat with gas, 43% heat with electricity. If we get a shortage, that means 87% of homes will have trouble being heated.
        • $1
          $1 a month is a small price to pay to breath clean air! Thank you to all those that stood up and pushed IPL to do this.

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