MidAmerican Energy will phase out coal burning at seven boilers located in three plants across the state as part of a settlement announced today with the Sierra Club. Bruce Nilles is director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, which is seeking to end coal burning in the U.S. by 2030.
“A year ago, we notified MidAmerican that we believed (the company) was violating the Clean Air Act and emitting illegal amounts of pollution out of three of its coal fired power plants,” Nilles says. “To their credit, they were willing to sit down and work out an agreement that phases out these (boilers) and increases investments in clean energy.”
The agreement filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Iowa states MidAmerican — by April 2016 — will phase out coal burning in two boilers at the Neal Energy Center North in Sergeant Bluff, two more boilers at the Walter Scott, Jr. Energy Center in Council Bluffs and all three boilers at the Riverside Generating Station in Bettendorf. MidAmerican must also complete a project to cut emissions from two other coal burning units in the Sergeant Bluff plant by the end of 2014.
“Today’s announcement will produce immediate health benefits for folks living downwind of these three coal fired power plants,” Nilles says. “There will also be statewide and international benefits because these coal plants are large contributors to global warming with their carbon pollution and today’s announcement will phase out those sources of pollution.”
MidAmerican Energy spokeswoman Tina Potthoff says the Riverside Plant in Bettendorf will be converted to a natural gas power plant, while the company is evaluating the use of other fuels – including natural gas – to replace the coal burning in Council Bluffs and Sergeant Bluff. Potthoff says the company does not expect the settlement will result in drastic changes in its workforce.
“We do not anticipate any forced reductions to labor as a result of this,” Potthoff says. “As normal planned vacancies occur, due to personnel leaving through retirement or changing jobs — plant personnel whose jobs could be impacted would then move into those roles as necessary.” MidAmerican, as part of the settlement, has also agreed to finance an environmental project.
Potthoff says one of the options for that project would be a large solar installation at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. The Sierra Club reports the settlement with MidAmerican brings the total number of coal plants in the U.S. retired or announced to retire since 2010 to 130 plants — or almost one-sixth of the nation’s entire coal fleet.