Duke Energy has reached a settlement with several environmental groups regarding air permits at two of its power plants in Indiana.
The settlement with the Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, Save the Valley and Valley Watch sets a deadline for when Duke Energy must close four of its coal burning units at its Wabash River station and stop burning coal at a fifth unit. The company has agreed to close the units in 2015 when the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxic standards take effect. However, if the standards are delayed, the agreement allows Duke Energy to postpone closure as late as June 1, 2018.
As reported, Duke Energy had already planned to close those units because retrofitting them to comply with EPA standards was not economically viable.
Duke Energy spokesman Lew Middleton says the closures should not affect employees.
“We manage the shift in jobs through normal attrition, through retirements, and through offering employees opportunities to work at other generating stations or other departments within Duke Energy Indiana,” Middleton says.
The environmental groups involved in the settlement praised the deal, calling it “a step in the right direction.”
“We’ll definitely see cleaner air, as a result of these retirements and also cleaner water and healthier populations,” Sierra Club of Indiana representative Jodi Perras says. “This settlement, in addition to retiring an old, dirty coal-fired plant will be generating some clean energy jobs and healthier energy for the grid that Duke contributes to.”
Duke Energy officials have committed to using more renewable energy sources. Under the agreement, the company can either purchase 30-megawatts of solar power from other energy companies in Indiana or install wind or solar technology able to generate 15 megawatts of energy at its own facilities.
The agreement also ends an appeal of Duke Energy’s air pollution permit for its Edwardsport coal-gasification plant. Environmental groups were challenging the permit issued by the Indiana Department of Transportation.
However, the groups still have another case before the Indiana Court of Appeals that alleges the plant is running $1.6 billion over budget, costing Indiana taxpayers money because of a deal made between Duke Energy and the state.
That deal made in December 2012 allows Duke Energy to pass on nearly $2.6 billion in construction costs to energy consumers. The company is required to absorb any additional costs.