One more time: we don't need new coal-fired plants

This came in from Plains Justice yesterday:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 29, 2008      

Contacts:        

Carrie La Seur, Plains Justice (Cedar Rapids), 319-560-4729, claseur AT plainsjustice.org

Chris James, Synapse Energy Economics (Cambridge, MA), 617-861-7484, cjames AT synapse-energy.com

COMMUNITY, FARM AND PUBLIC HEALTH GROUPS FILE EXPERT TESTIMONY THAT BETTER EFFICIENCY PERFORMANCE IS A GENUINE ALTERNATIVE TO COAL

DES MOINES – Today Plains Justice, a Cedar Rapids-based environmental justice law center, filed expert testimony in Interstate Power and Light’s energy efficiency planning docket before the Iowa Utilities Board, on behalf of a coalition of Iowa grassroots groups.  The testimony by Synapse Energy Economics concludes that IPL has exaggerated costs and underestimated potential for its efficiency programs.

Expert witness Christopher James, a former air regulator who helped develop EPA’s National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, testifies that “IPL overestimates the costs of energy efficiency, and underestimates the amount of energy efficiency that can be achieved by 2013.”  IPL has told the IUB that energy savings of 1.5% annually, the level requested by IUB, would be difficult to achieve.  James concludes that this scenario is “very achievable” and should be pursued.

IPL’s energy efficiency planning is the subject of heightened interest because IPL claims that it cannot avoid the need for its proposed 649 MW Marshalltown plant through improved efficiency programming.  According to today’s intervenor testimony, IPL’s flawed approach to efficiency has led to the conclusion that a new coal plant is needed.  James testifies that IPL could achieve even more than 1.5% annual energy savings by including opportunities IPL has ignored, including combined heat and power at industrial sites like ethanol refineries.

The testimony states that “IPL has ignored some of the benefits of energy efficiency to Iowa’s consumers and businesses. These benefits include: deferring the need to construct new or upgrade existing generation, deferring the need to construct new or upgrade existing transmission lines and distribution system, reducing ratepayer bills, reducing emissions of criteria air pollutants (such as those which contribute to acid rain, smog and haze) and greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing public health costs (from reduced number of asthma cases, visits to emergency rooms, lost productivity at work, etc.).” James recommends that IUB require a revised and more ambitious plan from IPL.

Plains Justice argues that IUB must ensure that IPL has optimized efficiency programming before allowing a new coal plant to be built at a cost of up to $2 billion.  “Approving a coal plant before we’ve completed an aggressive efficiency planning process is putting the cart before the horse, at ratepayer expense,” says Plains Justice President and Founder Carrie La Seur.

Intervenors represented by Plains Justice in this docket are Community Energy Solutions, Iowa Farmers Union and Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility.  The intervenors are advocates for clean, community-based energy solutions that minimize the health and environmental impacts of energy production and support local and rural economies.  This intervention is one of a series brought by Plains Justice to promote better energy policy for Iowa on behalf of grassroots Iowa organizations.

The only low point of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech on Thursday was this:

As president, as president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.

There is no such thing as “clean coal.” Every new coal-fired power plant is a 50-year investment in the wrong direction. It is unfortunate that our Democratic leaders lack the political courage to embrace an energy policy committed to meeting our needs without expanding our use of coal and nuclear power.

Al Gore laid out how this can be done in a major speech last month. Click the link to find an annotated version of the full transcript.

We can do much more with conservation and energy efficiency measures than the major utility companies acknowledge.

Thanks to Plains Justice and the other non-profit groups that are continuing to push the Iowa Utilities Board in the right direction.

If only the IUB had done the right thing back in April, these worthy non-profits could be spending their staff time and resources on other environmental and health problems facing Iowans.

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