This chart from the redacted version of testimony submitted on behalf of the Sierra Club projects that customers would incur a cumulative loss (green line) for at least 10 years under Duke Energy’s proposed power purchase agreement plan.
As Ohio utilities seek to require the public to help pay for aging power plants, they are also fighting to keep data that could be used to evaluate those plans under wraps.
FirstEnergy, Duke Energy and American Electric Power have asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to guarantee sales for particular affiliated plants with plans critics characterize as “bailouts.”
At the same time, the utilities are citing confidentiality claims to prevent public disclosure of large amounts of cost data and projections related to the plans.
Nonetheless, redacted materials filed by the Sierra Club in the Duke Energy case show the utility’s plan would have a net cost to consumers, even after 10 years.
The testimony directly contradicts Duke Energy’s own claim that customers would benefit from its proposed plan in the long run.
Chicago neighborhood activists say Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking too much credit for the closure of the Fisk and Crawford coal plants. (Photo by Daniel X. O’Neill via Creative Commons)
Even though they closed in 2012, Chicago’s controversial Fisk and Crawford coal plants are making an encore appearance in this year’s municipal elections, to be held Feb. 24.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first televised campaign ad featured the mayor on a park bench talking with Kim Wasserman, one of the community leaders who worked for more than a decade to try to force the coal plants to clean up or shut down.
The ad portrays Wasserman giving Emanuel credit for brokering a deal that shut down the Chicago plants, which immediately sparked outcry from many of the community activists who had been working on the issue since the early 2000s. They said they resented Emanuel taking credit for the plants’ closing. And they pointed out that the plants were likely to close anyway – and did close well before Emanuel’s deadline – because of competition from cheap natural gas. Additionally, the deal Emanuel brokered included the dropping of a lawsuit against the company Midwest Generation’s other Illinois coal plants.
This story was updated to include comments from MISO.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has delayed a proposed cost-allocation structure that would leave Upper Peninsula residents paying tens of millions of dollars annually to keep an aging coal plant open in Marquette.
In its ruling Friday, the FERC directed the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, to provide more information about its payment methods to keep the We Energies’ Presque Isle Power Plant open under a System Support Resource agreement. The cost increases were scheduled to take effect today.
The Oak Creek Power Plant near Milwaukee is a significant source of coal ash that a new report says is contaminating nearby groundwater. (Photo by JanetandPhil via Creative Commons)
The “beneficial reuse” of coal ash, often touted as a way to keep the material out of landfills, is potentially causing serious contamination of drinking water in southeast Wisconsin and possibly across the state, according to a report released Tuesday by Clean Wisconsin.
By classifying coal ash as an “industrial byproduct,” as report author Tyson Cook says, companies are able to place contaminant-laden coal ash in the ground — as structural fill in and below roads, trails, parking lots, buildings, and bridges — with no lining or monitoring.
About 85 percent of Wisconsin’s coal ash is reused, compared to about 50 percent nationwide. Congress has even called Wisconsin the “gold standard” on this front.
Clean Wisconsin’s study of test results from almost 1,000 wells found that there is evidence such coal ash is contaminating groundwater that provides drinking water for thousands of residents.
At a Racine area elementary school, Clean Wisconsin’s own testing found molybdenum levels at more than twice the state’s enforcement standard.
Clean Wisconsin’s analysis of state test results also found that molybdenum contamination is significantly higher in close proximity to coal ash structural fill sites — ash layered below roads, buildings and the like to create level ground and fill spaces. Higher molybdenum levels also corresponded to the flow of groundwater in relation to known coal ash reuse sites, the study found.
FirstEnergy wants to guarantee revenue for its Sammis power plant near Stratton, Ohio. (Photo ©Sierra Club/Colin Scianamblo, used with permission)
Murray Energy Corporation wants Ohio energy regulators to approve a plan that benefits FirstEnergy’s unregulated generation affiliate, FirstEnergy Solutions.
The comments filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) last week claim that many jobs depend on keeping FirstEnergy’s Sammis coal plant in operation. The plant “typically burns between 6 million and 7 million tons of coal per year,” according to Murray Energy spokesperson Gary Broadbent.
The coal company’s comments join a flurry of other support that includes dozens of form letters signed by employees of FirstEnergy’s plants, along with letters from other suppliers and various local governments that talk about the importance of protecting jobs.
Clean-energy advocates question claims in the comments and say they do not justify subsidizing unregulated power plants that can’t compete effectively in Ohio’s deregulated generation market.
A former coal mine site in southern Illinois has become the focal point of a legal fight over state regulation. (Image via Google Maps)
Around the turn of the millennium, southern Illinois environmental consultant Bob Johnson would drive by a six-story-high grassy plateau and imagine the ways the reclaimed coal mine waste storage site could be put to “higher or better” use than its previous life as farmland.
Those words are enshrined in the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMRCA), the federal law that requires mine sites to be returned to an approximation of their natural contours and to uses at least as beneficial as their previous incarnation.
“I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could put baseball fields on top of this mound of waste, from the highway you’d see them up in the air, people would be enjoying it, wouldn’t that be great?” said Johnson.
But far from becoming sports fields, the waste dump has become the grounds for a legal demand, filed last month, that seeks a federal takeover of mining oversight in Illinois.
If granted, the decision could put a major chill on Illinois’s resurgent coal mining industry and spark the re-examination of numerous mining and waste permits previously issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).
Valerie Brader, an advisor to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, addresses the Upper Peninsula Energy Summit in Marquette. (Photo by Shawn Malone for Midwest Energy News)
MARQUETTE — Let Michigan decide its own energy future. That’s the message industry leaders and state officials drove home Tuesday at the Upper Peninsula Energy Summit in Marquette, Michigan.
The message was set against a backdrop of federal regulatory decisions that could drastically increase electricity bills for Upper Peninsula ratepayers. More than 20 proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission involve the fate of the coal-fired Presque Isle Power Plant here and how much ratepayers in Michigan — or Wisconsin, where plant owner We Energies is located — should pay.
“The fact that the federal government controls our destiny … does make it a tough situation when you have variables coming in and trying to dictate what we have to do,” state Sen. Mike Nofs, who chairs the Senate Energy and Technology Committee, told the audience of over 300.
Valerie Brader, deputy legal counsel and senior policy advisor for Gov. Rick Snyder, said earlier in the day that the crisis “is an example of what happens when the federal government makes [energy] decisions for you.”
The Gavin Power Plant near Cheshire, Ohio. (Photo by Jeff Lovett via Creative Commons)
American Electric Power (AEP) is on notice that it may be sued for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act by its Gavin Power Plant in Cheshire, Ohio.
Last week, the Sierra Club sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue, which claims that excess emissions of sulfur dioxide created a “public nuisance” in violation of the law. The notice is the first step under a federal law letting citizens sue to enforce the Clean Air Act.
The notice, however, is unrelated to AEP’s pending requests that would have the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) make ratepayers guarantee sales for all the output from certain coal plants.
“This was not a response to [AEP’s] bailout request” to guarantee sales for other coal plants, noted Dan Sawmiller of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.
FirstEnergy’s stock prices have slipped, compared to other energy and industrial companies. Courtesy IEEFA. (Click to enlarge)
FirstEnergy’s effort to get Ohio consumers to subsidize noncompetitive power plants is short-sighted and won’t guarantee long-term financial health, according to a new report.
That’s because FirstEnergy continues to center its business around coal, instead of adapting to competition, changing markets and newer technologies, says the report, released last week by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
American Electric Power (AEP) and other Ohio utilities have similar plans to protect coal plants.
FirstEnergy rejects the report, which it calls “misleading and biased.”
Rail cars carry taconite from Cliffs Natural Resources mines past the Presque Isle power plant in Marquette, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Ross via Creative Commons)
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories leading up to the U.P. Energy Summit on Oct. 28.
Part 1: Michigan’s U.P. goes head-to-head with its energy future.
What started in 2008 as one lawmaker’s intent to retain mining jobs in his Upper Peninsula community has evolved into a flashpoint of controversy that some say has jeopardized that very region’s energy future.
Mike Prusi represented several counties throughout the U.P. in the state legislature from 1995 to 2010 and served his last year as Senate Minority Leader. In 2008, he was able to get a specific provision inserted into Michigan’s energy choice law — which caps choice for customers at 10 percent of a utility’s load — that exempts U.P. iron ore mining or processing facilities.
It was a clear exemption for a major company he, his family and friends had worked for over generations.