The Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club announced a lawsuit Tuesday against state’s largest energy company, MidAmerican Energy. Carrie La Seur is an attorney from a Mount Vernon firm that’s representing the Sierra Club. La Seur says the Sierra Club filed the suit in U.S. District court in the southern district on six counts of clean air Act violations at the Council Bluffs Energy Center. She says the club also alleges 13 violations of existing air quality construction permits, and the construction of 11 new emission sources without any permit.
La Seur says it also plans action for other alleged violations. La Seur says the Sierra Club mailed a notice of the intent to sue over emission violations over the last five years at the MidAmerican plants in Council Bluffs and Bettendorf. La Seur says they have a couple of goals.
"First we want to see the Clean Air Act fully enforced, every day in all 99 counties of Iowa," La Seur says. She says the emission permits written by the D-N-R represent the maximum safe levels of air pollutants as determined by the E-P-A and says they’re necessary to keep pollution out of the air and water. La Seur says they also have a long-term goal.
La Seur says, "We want to see Iowa off E-P-A’s list of oldest and dirtiest power plants." She says the MidAmerican boilers at Bettendorf and Sioux City date to 1961 and 1964. La Seur says those boilers are largely exempt from pollution controls. MidAmerican is headquartered in Des Moines.
MidAmerican President Todd Raba says Unit Four, the newest addition to the Council Bluffs Energy Center, is "absolutely state-of-the-art." "It’s the first power plant in the country that will utilize advanced supercritical technology that reduces carbon dioxide emissions by producing steam at higher temperatures," says Raba.
In addition he says it’s fitted with state-of-the-art environmental controls that will reduce the emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury. He says Unit Four will be about fifteen-percent more efficient than the last generation of coal plants that have been built in this country.
Raba says MidAmerican also has completed the building of 323 wind turbines in Iowa, and that solidifies the company’s status as the country’s number one owner of wind energy, at least among regulated utilities. Raba says that demonstrates the company’s commitment to managing emissions across its entire "generation fleet." Raba wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, saying it’s pending litigation, but said a lot of the company’s power sources are the cleanest in use today. He pointed to the company’s announcement less than three weeks ago that it’s planning another 540 megawatts of wind generating capacity in the state.
Raba says with its newly-announced wind facilities, upward of 18-percent of MidAmerican Energy’s generating capability will be in renewable sources. He says the country’s "nowhere near" being ready to give up generating electricity by burning coal, but MidAmerican’s working with the industry in research and development of new technology.
Contrary to the claims in a lawsuit by the Sierra Club, Raba says MidAmerican Energy meets or exceeds emissions requirements today at all of its plants. The Council Bluffs Energy Center becomes the largest coal-fueled plant in Iowa’s history with the "Unit Four" addition that’s scheduled for completion this summer after four years of construction. It’s adding 790-megawatts of capacity, generating enough power to supply 650,000 homes.