The U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a pollution settlement today with Interstate Power and Light, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy company in Cedar Rapids.
Under the agreement, Alliant will pay a penalty of $1.1 million dollars and has agreed to six million dollars in environmental mitigation projects. Alliant spokesman Justin Foss says the company will also install pollution control devices at some coal fired electric plants, while converting others to natural gas.
“We have for years now been transitioning how we generate electricity to a much cleaner method. For years we have been making changes at many of our coal-fired power plants, and now we have continued that,” Foss says. Foss says the company is installing the pollution control devices at the Lansing and Ottumwa electric plants, while making the fuel conversions at two others. “As a part of this settlement, we are going to then eventually transition our generating station in Burlington and part of our Prairie Creek Station here in Cedar Rapids to natural gas,” Foss says. The company just completed converting the Clinton plant to natural gas after previously doing so in Dubuque and Marshalltown.
Foss says the company is exploring several options for the $6 million in mitigation projects. “Three of the leading ones that we are looking at are spending money to install solar installations here in Iowa, spending money to install digesters here in Iowa, and then also purchasing some new hybrid powered bucket trucks runs off of a battery,” Foss says. Customers will end up paying for the programs and the plant improvements.”Most of these projects we have already completed. Those projects are already reflected in rates for our customers,” Foss says. “A few of the new ones will be reflected in future rate adjustments that we make.” Foss couldn’t say exactly how much the settlement will impact future electric rates, but says it’s expected to be minimal.
The Sierra Club is joined the state and Linn County in the suit against Alliant. The Sierra Club’s senior director of the “Beyond Coal” campaign Bruce Nilles calls it a great settlement for the state.
“There are 8 coal plants that are either installing modern pollution controls to slash their dangerous emissions or pollutants, or phasing out over the next several years and being replaced with clean energy,” Nilles “So it’s a real important milestone in the evolution that Iowa has really been leading across the country for the last decade.”
While customers will pay for the changes made by Alliant, Nilles says the cost will balance out. “There’s really been a bipartisan support of transitioning from coal to wind power. Because it’s actually been both providing clean, renewable energy, plus really helping the consumer bills, because using wind there’s no fuel costs,” Nilles says. “So as the price of coal and gas and other fossil fuels fluctuated, the price of wind power has continued to come down, and it’s really helped protect people’s bills while at the same time clearing out the skies of dangerous air pollution.”
Nilles says Iowa has been a leader in the nation in using renewable energy — mainly with wind power. “Phasing out coal over the next 5, 10 15 years really is where Iowa is heading,” according to Nilles. “No one is building new coal plants because they are simply too expensive. And as we are learning more about how to store clean, renewable energy, and as solar begins to get a foothold in the state, Iowa is well poised to repeat what it has done with wind power with solar power.” He says he expects Iowa’s use of renewable energy to continue to grow and crowd out other fuels.
“It’s entirely possible in the next decade or so that Iowa is essentially off fossil fuels entirely,” Nilles says. The settlement was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District Court of Iowa and there will be 30 days for public comment. The company is required to pay the penalty within 30 days after the court approves the settlement.
Find out more on the settlement at: www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees.