Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Iowa Utilities Board Approves Coal Plant in Marshalltown

The Iowa Utilities Board approved the building of the coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown today. However, the permit does call for a much greater investment by Alliant in renewable energy.

The approval came with three main conditions attached to it:

-- The burning of bio-mass must reach 5 percent of the plant's capacity within 2 years and 10 percent within 5 years.

-- The company's energy supply must be 10 percent renewable energy when the plant goes online in 2013. The use of renewable energy must then increase 1 percent annually for 15 years.

-- The IUB will periodically review the feasibility of retrofitting carbon capture technology, which deals with capturing the emissions from generating power, and reserves the right to require Alliant to install that technology at its new plant.

A written ruling to further explain the terms of these conditions will be issued in a few weeks.

At first glance, this ruling seems like a decent compromise. It would require Alliant to further increase their investment in renewable energy and would require them to close older, inefficient coal plants.

My main question is on enforcement. What would be the punishment, if in 15 years, Alliant fails miserable to increase their energy supply from renewable sources?

The investments in renewable energy and the ability to retrofit the plant with carbon capture technology are a step in the right direction. However, as a local resident, I still have concerns about other environmental factors in my community, such as the release of mercury and other pollutants into the air and water.

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