Hundreds reject I&M’s pollution plan for Rockport Plant

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- Hundreds of people from Fort Wayne and nearby cities are sounding off about Indiana Michigan Power’s new proposal for the Rockport Power Plant. If approved, the changes could mean a rate increase for customers.

I&M is seeking approval from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) for a new construction project at its Rockport Generating Station in Spencer County. They said the project is necessary to keep the plant operating beyond 2019 and to keep the plant compliant with environmental regulations.

The project would cost approximately $274.2 million dollars, which could lead to a 1.6% rate increase for I&M customers. Under Indiana law, customers must have the opportunity to go before the commission at a public hearing before a decision is made.

Customers were seemingly more concerned that a continued investment in coal-fired power plant could negatively impact the environment, during the Tuesday night hearing. Many argued the company should consider an investment in renewable energy sources instead.

“We’re going to continue to be looked at [like we’re] in the stone ages if we continue to invest in old energy,” said Megan Elizabeth Sutton. “I think it’s kind of silly, when we have a sun over our heads and the wind blowing through our hair everyday, that we have to bring energy from 300 miles away.”

People from across the state weighed in on the pollution control plan in an hours long meeting. Many woreshirts and signs in protest of investing in what they call an “outdated” source of energy.

“We’re disappointed by I&M’s 20-year-plan that they put out,” said Brian Flory, a Pastor at a local church. “It’s a route that’s not going to serve us for decades… for the next generation to come.”

Leaders at I&M said the plant is only about 30 years old and it is worth investing in. Brian Bergsma, Director of Communications and Government Affairs, said the company will also continue to invest in renewable energy sources like solar power and wind farms.

“We are investigating in renewable,” he said. “We think it’s important. But you also need base-load power and that’s what Rockport is for.”

Still, those who oppose the plan are hopeful that the board will realize the importance of investing in an energy plan that they believe will have long term benefits.

A decision could be made as early as June.