On The Radio – Cedar Rapids power plant retires coal burning unit


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A view of industrial Cedar Rapids in 2013. (Arlen Breiholz/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | November 13, 2017

This On The Radio segment discusses how Alliant Energy recently added Cedar Rapids to its list of Iowa cities moving away from coal and toward natural gas.

Transcript: Alliant Energy began burning natural gas instead of coal in one of its largest energy units in Cedar Rapids last month.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Crews converted one of four coal-burning units at Prairie Creek Generation Station so that it could operate using natural gas last month. Upgrades to the more than 100 megawatt unit are expected to reduce the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent and sulfur dioxide, mercury, and particulate matter pollution by 50 percent.

Alliant Energy has also recently transitioned from coal to natural gas at plants in Marshalltown, Dubuque, Council Bluffs, Bettendorf and Clinton. Prairie Creek Generation Station is expected to be coal free by 2025.

While coal still provides 47 percent of Iowa’s energy, that number has decreased significantly in recent years. Wind energy provides the second largest percentage of Iowa’s electricity, making up 36.6 percent of the total energy picture.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

EPA air quality regulations will cause mass power plant closures


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New EPA air pollution regulations will force at least 32 coal-fired power plants to close.

Among the plants threatened by the regulations are four Alliant Energy plants in Iowa.

The plant shutdowns could cause blackouts. Also, electric bills are expected to increase in order to compensate for the increased expenditures of energy companies trying to meet regulations.

For more information on the regulations and the plant shutdowns, read the Star-Telegram article here.

Study finds little benefits in switch from coal to natural gas


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A study published in Climatic Change found that switching from coal to natural gas does little to protect the ozone layer.

The Iowa Independent reports:

Natural gas may be a cleaner-burning energy source than coal, but making the switch isn’t likely to slow global warming any time soon, according to a new study in the journal Climatic Change. Continue reading

Iowa named top-20 toxic state


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Iowa was named among the top “toxic 20” states in the U.S. by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Physicians for Social Responsibility. They judged the states’ toxicity by their coal and oil power plant pollution. The nation’s leaders included Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Kentucky. While Iowa was the 20th and final state to make the list, the Quad-City Times reports that the emissions from coal and oil power plants only begin to indicate Iowa’s total air pollution:

Half of the industrial pollutants in the U.S. come from coal- and oil-fired power plants. Nationwide, 381.7 million tons of toxic air pollution comes from the electric sector, the report said.

In Iowa, the picture is different. Continue reading

EPA imposes new limits on power plants


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The Environmental Protection Agency is set to impose new regulations on many nationwide power plants. These plants were picked because their generated air pollution affects other states downwind. Iowa is among the 27 states containing power plants subject to the new EPA limits. Omaha World-Herald reports that the increased regulations specifically target coal plants:

Critics called it another step by the Obama administration to crack down on coal-fired power plants. The regulation is one of several expected from the EPA that would target pollution from the nation’s 594 coal-fired power plants, which provide nearly half of the country’s electricity — but also a significant share of its pollution.

While the EPA said the regulations will not cause the power to go out, almost everyone agrees that it will help close down some of the oldest, and dirtiest, coal-fired facilities. At the remaining plants, operators would have to use existing pollution controls more frequently, use lower-sulfur coal, or install additional equipment. Continue reading

EPA moves to clean up coal plants nationwide


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The Environmental Protection Agency is gaining ground in its battle against polution emitted from coal plants.  It hopes to finish two measures this week that would help the power plants cut back on their emissions.

McClatchy Newspapers reports:

After years of delays and false starts under both Democratic and Republican administrations, the Environmental Protection Agency is close to finishing two measures to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Health experts say the pollution reductions will save thousands of lives every year by sparing people asthma attacks, heart attacks and other health problems. Coal-dependent power companies that face big bills for new equipment in response to the EPA rules are calling for more time, arguing that electric rates will rise, harming households and industries.

One of the rules, expected in final form as early as Wednesday, would force states in the eastern half of the country to reduce pollutants that travel hundreds of miles to create dangerously bad air days in other states. The other rule, due in November and the subject of much wrangling, will be the first national requirement to reduce mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants. Continue reading