A state hearing on a proposal to build a coal-fired generation plant near Marshalltown opened Monday. The debate involves Alliant Energy’s plan for a $1.5 billion dollar generating station. State Representative Mark Smith, who is from Marshalltown, says the plant is necessary to transition Iowa to future energy sources. Smith says Alliant’s use of advanced technology ensures reduced emissions from the plant.
"The replacement of power generation from older plants with this new plant will continue to improve overall emissions in our state," Smith told the Iowa Utilities Board. Local residents voiced opposition to the proposal, citing environmental risks and evidence supporting burning coal as a contributor to global warming.
Marshalltown’s Urlanda Helgen says she wants to see more facts on health effects of coal-fired plants. Helgen asked board members, "If there’s so many questions about health effects and the impact on the environment, what is the rush to do it now?"
State Senator Larry McKibben claims his hometown of Marshalltown is ready for the facility. He says Iowa’s fledgling bio-fuels industry needs power to operate. "This is part of how we keep and provide the transition to the energy of the future," McKibben said. "We have to have secure base-load…we have to allow our bio-energy facilities to function and they need energy." Tama’s Suzanne Wanatee (WAHN-uh-tee) says it’s a "lie" to think pollutants from coal-fired plants can be captured and rendered harmless.
"There is no such thing as clean coal technology, either now or in the future," Wanatee argues, "because matter just doesn’t disappear. Every speck, every ounce, every pound of coal byproduct must go somewhere." The Iowa Utilities Board is expected to make a decision on the plant later this year.