Protesters call for I&M to reduce coal usage, invest in clean energy

Members of Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light stand outside I&M headquarters in Fort Wayne protesting its AEP-Rockport coal- burning power plant.
Members of Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light stand outside I&M headquarters in Fort Wayne protesting its AEP-Rockport coal- burning power plant.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) An organization involving faith leaders, clean energy advocates and Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) customers delivered a petition during a rally Thursday outside I&M headquarters in Fort Wayne. The 1000 signatures delivered to I&M Chief Operating Officer Paul Chodak asks the company to invest in local clean energy and move away from coal-burning plants. I&M serves 597,000 customers in Indiana and Michigan.

The group petitioning, Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light (Hoosier IPL), has partnered with the Sierra Club, a nationally recognized grassroots environmental protection organization. The petitions were delivered to I&M as it prepares to submit its proposed 20-year energy plan to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

Hoosier IPL claims I&M only generates about three percent of its electricity from renewable resources. The organization is concerned because it said I&M intends to propose spending more than $6 billion to keep its coal burning AEP- Rockport plant open until at least 2035.

The organization also indicated that I&M-Rockport is the sixth largest toxic chemical polluter in Indiana and dumps nearly 13,000 pounds of toxic chemicals into the Ohio River each year. It also said I&M- Rockport is also the sixth largest carbon polluter in the nation, citing the US Environmental Protection Agency saying that the coal- burning plant released 5.8 million pounds of pollutants in Indiana’s air and water in 2013.

Ultimately, protesters called for I&M to retire at least half of the generating capacity of the AEP- Rockport coal plant by 2020. To read the full release from the Sierra Club, click here. 

The following is the full statement released by I&M regarding the Sierra Club’s concerns:

Interaction and communication with all stakeholders are important to I&M and to our role as hometown energy provider in the communities we serve. I&M constantly balances its customers’ cost, reliability and environmental impact interests in our generation resource decisions. We appreciate the opportunity to hear stakeholders’ concerns as part of our mission of serving customers in the most responsible, reliable and cost-effective ways we can – today and in the future.

I&M already generates over half of the electricity used by its customers with zero emissions from its wind, hydro and nuclear facilities.  We are also building four large scale solar facilities that will generate enough kilowatt-hours to be able to power over 2,000 homes.  The first solar facility is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2015.  I&M customers can now sign up to subscribe to IM Solar to demonstrate their support for I&M’s solar power as soon as it comes on line. (See details at www.IndianaMichiganPower.com/solar)

I&M is committed to reducing its environmental footprint in a cost-effective manner.  Rather than install costly new emission control equipment to meet new environmental regulations, we made the difficult decision to retire Tanners Creek coal plant earlier this year.  Our long term generation resource plan includes updating equipment at the emission-free Cook Nuclear Plant; adding wind; and building solar. While this transition occurs, large-scale, lower-cost, 24/7 generation plants will still be necessary to ensure that factories will operate, businesses will be open and our customers can expect us to power their homes. I&M will continue to seek ways to serve our customers in a responsible, cost-effective manner.

The Indiana Chapter of the Sierra Club has its own campaign, “Indiana Beyond Coal Campaign,” that has called for cleaner energy throughout the state.

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