Sierra Club — “IPL Plans Early Retirement of Two Coal-fired Units at Petersburg Plant”

Enrique Saenz, Indiana Environmental Reporter, December 11, 2019
Indianapolis Power & Light is recommending the early retirement of two of its four coal-fired units at its Petersburg Generating Station in Pike County.

Indianapolis Power & Light officials announced the company plans to retire two of four coal-fired units at its Petersburg Generating Station in Pike County within the next four years.

The company’s state-mandated integrated resource plan will propose the early retirement of Petersburg’s 230 MW Unit 1 in 2021 and 415 MW Unit 2 in 2023, about 10 years earlier than planned. Both coal-fired units are about 50 years old.

After the retirements, coal would only provide about 28% of IPL’s total energy generation.

IPL plans to keep the Petersburg station’s two remaining coal-fired generating units operating until 2042.

The company also plans to invest in solar and wind energy and energy storage.

“The integrated resource planning process is an opportunity for IPL leaders to listen, learn, inform and engage with our customers and key stakeholders regarding future energy demand,” said IPL president and CEO Vince Parisi in a statement. “We used key drivers such as economics, flexibility, optionality and grid reliability to model scenarios supporting our decision to invest in a more balanced energy mix, which minimizes risk to our customers and takes into account a rapidly-changing energy landscape.”

Environmental groups like the Sierra Club approve of IPL’s proposal, but say the company needs to take bolder actions to protect the health of residents in southwest Indiana and to prevent massive changes to the world’s climate.

“It’s good that IPL is moving to get rid of two units at this outdated, massive Super Polluter, but we can’t tiptoe our way out of the climate crisis,” said Wendy Bredhold, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Indiana. “Southwest Indiana’s families and children living with health impacts from the Petersburg plant need bold plans to move rapidly away from dangerous fossil fuels that are poisoning our air and water and threatening our health.”

Super polluter” is a term used to describe power plants, factories and other facilities that emit the most toxic air releases or greenhouse gases in the U.S.

Only 22 sites appeared on both lists; five are located in southwestern Indiana.

Duke Energy Corp.’s Gibson power plant in Owensville, American Electric Power’s Rockport power plant in Rockport, Alcoa’s Warrick manufacturing complex in Newburgh, Northern Indiana Public Service Co.’s R.M. Schahfer power plant in Wheatfield and IPL parent company AES Corp.’s Petersburg generating station in Petersburg are considered Indiana’s “super polluters.”

The Petersburg Generating Station emitted 9,291,274 metric tons of total greenhouse gases in 2018, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides. Source: EPA

In 2018 the Petersburg generating station emitted 9,291,274 metric tons of total greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. The facility also emitted 124,972 pounds of air toxics, including sulfuric acidhydrochloric acidhydrogen fluorideselenium and ammonia, which can all adversely affect human health.

Within the last five years, the Petersburg generating station has been the subject of two federal and four state informal enforcement actions. That means the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the Indiana Department of Environmental Management found some violations and then gave the facility’s operators a chance to correct those violations.

“Sierra Club and our allies will continue to push for the clean energy that Indianapolis residents demand and deserve, which must include a plan to fully retire Petersburg by 2028 and clean up its widespread toxic pollution. Anything less is a failure for our climate and our communities,” said Bredhold.

IPL’s integrated resource plan is expected to be submitted to the IURC by Dec. 16.

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