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.

China responds to Trump’s climate policy rollback


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China is among the world’s lead producers of both renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions. (Jonathan Kos-Read/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | March 31, 2017

China has responded to Trump’s rollback of Obama-era climate change policy via state-run media publications.

A recent state-run tabloid read, “Western opinion should continue to pressure the Trump administration on climate change. Washington’s political selfishness must be discouraged.” It continued, “China will remain the world’s biggest developing country for a long time. How can it be expected to sacrifice its own development space for those developed western powerhouses?”

China consumes more energy from coal than the rest of the world’s nations combined and is also the global leader in greenhouse gas emissions; the U.S. is in second place. China’s population measures 3.4 billion people while the U.S. population is roughly 3.3 million. China also leads the world in the exportation of renewable energy.

The Trump administration discussed the possibility of withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement after the President referred to it as a “bad deal” for the U.S. Projections from the International Energy Agency reveal that if the U.S. backed out of the Paris Climate Agreement and all other countries stuck to emission reduction goals, 10 percent of emission decrease expected from the agreement would be lost.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “All signatories should stick to it instead of walking away from it, as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.”

Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company in the U.S., echoes Xi’s sentiment. “We welcomed the Paris Agreement when it was announced in December 2015, and again when it came into force in November 2016. We have reiterated our support on several occasions,” said Peter Trelenberg, the company’s environmental policy and planning manager, in a letter to the White House.

According to a report from the United Nations, Earth is expected to warm by about 3 degrees Celsius by the end of this century – even if all nations keep their end of the Paris Agreements.

Iowa utility agrees to phase out several coal plants, pay fine


Smokestacks from a coal plant near Council Bluffs, Iowa. (Rich/Flickr)
Smokestacks from a coal plant near Council Bluffs, Iowa. (Rich/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | July 16, 2015

An Iowa utility company plans to phase out several of its coal-fired power plants in the near future.

Interstate Power and Light Co. – a subsidiary of Alliant Energy – announced on Wednesday that it will either close or convert to natural gas five of its coal plants while an additional two plants will be equipped with pollution control technology. The cost for these projects is estimated at $620 million. Wednesday’s announcement marks the 200th closure of a coal plant nationwide over the last five years.

The Sierra Club, the state of Iowa, and other local and federal agencies sued Interstate Power and Light alleging the company was in violation of the Clean Air Act. In addition to the closures and upgrades to its facilities, Interstate Power and Light has also agreed to a pay a $1.1 million civil penalty within 30 days of the settlement. The company will also spend an additional $6 million on other environmental projects including the development of solar facilities, the replacement of traditional utility bucket trucks with hybrid trucks, and the development or expansion of anaerobic digesters.

“For several years, we have been executing a plan to create cleaner and more efficient ways to generate energy for our customers,” Alliant Energy Iowa utility President Doug Kopp said in a press release. “Iowans are already seeing the benefits of our work, and our next projects will deliver even more clean-energy solutions.”

Emission reduction projects will take place on two of the company’s largest facilities in Lansing and Ottumwa while smaller power stations in Burlington and Cedar Rapids will convert to natural gas. Alliant generating stations in Clinton, Dubuque, and Marshalltown have already transitioned to natural gas.

IPR’s ‘River to River’ discusses how new EPA carbon emission standards will affect Iowa


Nick Fetty | June 5, 2014
Photo by Michael Paul Willis; Flickr
Photo by Michael Paul Willis; Flickr

Today’s segment of ‘River to River’ on Iowa Public Radio discussed how the EPA’s new carbon emissions standard will affect Iowa.

Jerry Schnoor, University of Iowa environmental engineering professor and CGRER co-director, contributed to the program as did producer and Little Village Magazine editor Adam Burke, who produced a documentary about air quality in Muscatine (pictured above) where in 2012 residents filed a lawsuit against the Grain Processing plant.

An audio podcast of Thursday’s program can be downloaded via iTunes.

New climate plan asks for cooperation from states


Nick Fetty | June 3, 2014
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Photo via Matt; Flickr

A new plan proposed by President Obama to cut carbon pollution will rely on states to set and meet their own emissions standards.

The plan aims to “cut carbon pollution from power plans by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.” Similar to the President’s health care initiative, individual states will be responsible for devising unique plans to meet the standard set by the federal government.

The article cites that farmers in Iowa and Minnesota currently generate up to 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources – such as solar and wind – while states in the southeast utilize nuclear energy. Critics say the new proposal will eliminate jobs and raise utility costs.

For more information, visit the EPA’s website. Also check out this infographic released by the White House.

“Time is running out on Midwestern Coal”


Photo by Carlyn Ann Crispell; Flickr

Abundant natural gas, cost declines for renewables, and tight regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are slowly killing coal-fired power plants in the U.S. This dynamic is playing out across the country, but the results will be particularly important in the Midwest. Continue reading

MidAmerican Energy will reduce emissions at Iowa plants


MidAmerican's Council Bluffs facility. Photo by nixter, Flickr.
MidAmerican’s Council Bluffs facility. Photo by nixter, Flickr.

Following a complaint from the Sierra Club, MidAmerican Energy Co. has agreed to reduce emissions at three of their Iowa-based power plants.

The Sierra Club threatened to sue MidAmerican this past summer for releasing more pollutants than permitted at their plants in Sergeant Bluff, Bettendorf and Council Bluffs.

To avoid the lawsuit, MidAmerican agreed to stop burning coal in two boilers at both the Council Bluffs and Sergeant Bluff facilities by April 2016. They will also convert three coal-fired boilers in Bettendorf to natural gas.

Read more here.