A controversial power plant project in central Iowa is being cancelled. "We are not going forward with the plant in Marshalltown," says Tom Aller, president of Interstate Power and Light.
Plans to build the coal-fired electric generating station have been underway for two years. Aller says it was a tough call to end it, for multiple reasons. "No one in particular, it just became difficult and after consulting with our partners, the co-ops and the other municipalities that wanted to be owners, we just concluded this…we just couldn’t go forward," Aller says. He cites several issues, including the current economic and financial climate, as well as increasing environmental, legislative and regulatory uncertainty over emissions.
Aller says the process hit a slow-down in the past month. "We have spent almost two years now, certainly it will be (two years) by the time we would’ve gotten done with the permitting," Aller says. "Of course, there’s now been litigation brought against ourselves and the Iowa Utilities Board by those who are opposing the plant in district court and who knows where that will go or how much time that would’ve taken, and so for all these reasons, we just concluded we just couldn’t figure out how to get there from here."
He says I.P.L., which is a subsidiary of Alliant Energy, consulted with their project partners before reaching a decision. The project was approved by the Iowa Utilities Board, but Aller says some conditions made continuing the project too difficult. Aller says: "Issues with the order itself. There are issues about the uncertainty of environmental regulations that we hear are coming in the new administration. The capital markets over the last six months have really collapsed so the ability to borrow money and get the money from the markets is a different question than when we started."
The Iowa Department of Natural Resource last week lengthened the public comment period to May. Aller says that decision delayed the timeline of the Marshalltown project. "The actual elongation of the process, the DNR has just lengthened the process for comments on the last part of the process, which is the air permit, another couple of months," Aller says. "When you add all those things together, it’s just difficult for us to see how we can get certainty and a conclusion to this process, and all the time we’re spending more and more and more money without any real degree of understanding where the end of the line is."
I.P.L. officials will now take some time to discuss a Plan B, details of which are not being made public. He says Alliant may consider a gas-fired facility, along with wind generation.