IA Utility to Close, Clean Coal Plants

Tuesday, July 21, 2015 @ 09:07 AM gHale

Alliant Energy Corp.’s settled litigation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and committed to shutter or clean up its coal-fired power plants in Iowa, paying over $620 million.

The Madison, IA-based utility agreed to pay a $1 million fine as it reached a settlement between its subsidiary, Interstate Power and Light Co. of Iowa, and the EPA.

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The agreement covers power plants in Iowa, on the heels of a similar settlement between EPA and Alliant two years ago covering its coal plants in Wisconsin. That settlement will lead to the shutdown of its coal plant on the Mississippi River in Cassville later this year.

“This settlement will eliminate thousands of tons of harmful air pollution each year, significantly improving air quality in Iowa and throughout the Midwest,” said Kevin W. Techau, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa.

“The terms we negotiated are consistent with our long-term plan for clean energy,” Interstate Power President Doug Kopp said. “We settled with the EPA to avoid unnecessary delays and ongoing uncertainty associated with litigation.”

As was the case in Wisconsin, many of the projects Alliant committed to were already in its long-term planning, said utility spokesman Justin Foss.

Most of the pieces in the settlement we have already completed and done; others we have planned, Foss said. “Part of what this settlement does is it puts some dates on things to make them formal and final.”

Under the agreement, filed in federal court in Cedar Rapids, Alliant committed to shutting down smaller coal units and converting others to burn natural gas.

EPA contended Alliant upgraded two of its Iowa coal plants, in 2006 and again in 2009, without adding pollution controls required by the federal Clean Air Act.

While not conceding that it violated the Clean Air Act, Alliant agreed to pay a fine of $1.1 million to state, federal and county governments. The utility will spend up to $6 million on a variety of projects such as new solar generation and anaerobic digesters in Iowa as well as a purchase of plug-in or hybrid utility trucks.

The bigger cost comes through projects to clean up coal plants or convert them to burn natural gas. Foss said the $620 million price tag will end up with other utilities that co-own Alliant’s Iowa coal plants.

New projects the utility is committing to as part of the settlement include new emission controls at the Ottumwa Generating Station by the end of 2019 as well as the solar, digester and hybrid truck projects, Foss said.

Beyond EPA rules, other factors, such as low natural gas prices, are driving utilities to step up power generation from natural gas while scaling back on burning coal.

But by burning less coal, Alliant will also reduce its emissions of the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas targeted by the EPA in its Clean Power Plan, a global warming rule expected to end up finalized this summer.

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