A step forward on Iowa’s path to clean energy sources

The Council was pleased to receive this important announcement from the Sierra Club concerning the end of the use of coal as a fuel at several existing MidAmerican Energy coal plants.  The Council has prioritized the retirement of existing coal plants and welcomes the Sierra Club’s settlement, which sets out concrete steps to help end the use of coal in Iowa.

Today, the Sierra Club and MidAmerican Energy Company announced a landmark settlement that requires the Iowa utility to phase out coal burning at seven coal-fired boilers, clean up another two coal-fired boilers and build a large solar installation at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.  The announcement also pushes the total amount of coal generation retired or announced to retire since 2010 to over 50,000 megawatts, almost one-sixth of the nation’s coal fleet.

In 2012, the Sierra Club notified MidAmerican that it was violating the federal Clean Air Act at its Walter Scott, Riverside and George Neal coal plants, by emitting more pollution than allowed by its permits. Today’s settlement filed in federal court in Iowa resolves those allegations. According to the Clean Air Task Force, air pollution from these three plants contributes to 45 deaths and 760 asthma attacks annually.

“Clean air, clean water and a booming clean energy economy are part of an Iowa legacy that I am proud to leave for my children and grandchildren,” said Pam Mackey Taylor, Chapter Energy Chair of the Sierra Club in Iowa. “Coal’s days are numbered here in Iowa. Pollution from MidAmerican’s coal-fired power plants causes major health problems in communities across Iowa. Retiring units at these coal plants and installing vital pollution controls at the remaining units will help Iowans breathe easier.”

The settlement between Sierra Club and MidAmerican Energy further cements Iowa’s position as a national clean energy leader. Iowa passed the first renewable energy standard in the country in 1983, decades before most states even considered similar standards. Iowa now ranks third in the nation in installed wind capacity, draws 22 percent of its electricity from wind energy and is a hub of wind component manufacturing in the Midwest. The wind industry employs 7,000 workers in Iowa, more than any other state.

“Big carbon pollution emitters like MidAmerican’s coal-fired power plants are contributing to the climate disruption causing this year’s historic drought across the Midwest,” said Bruce Nilles, Senior Director of the Beyond Coal campaign. “If we want to ensure that droughts do not become the new normal for Iowa, other utilities must follow suit to phase out coal imported from Wyoming and push Iowa’s strong home-grown clean energy development forward.”

Today’s announcement brings the total number of coal plants retired or announced to retire since 2010 to 130 plants and 50,717 megawatts, almost one sixth of the nation’s entire coal fleet. In 2009 these coal plants emitted more than 188 million metric tons of carbon pollution the equivalent annual emissions of more than 39 million passenger vehicles. These plants also emitted more than 7,600 pounds of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, and caused 6,000 heart attacks, 60,000 asthma attacks and 3,600 premature lives annually.

The preceding text is from a Sierra Club press release.

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