Sierra Club

Today, the Sierra Club and Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Company announced a landmark settlement that requires the Iowa utility to phase out coal burning at seven coal-fired boilers, clean up another two coal-fired boilers and build a large solar installation at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The announcement also pushes the total amount of coal generation retired or announced to retire since 2010 to more than 50,000 megawatts, almost one-sixth of the nation’s coal fleet.

In 2012, the Sierra Club notified MidAmerican that it was violating the federal Clean Air Act at its Walter Scott, Riverside and George Neal coal plants, by emitting more pollution than allowed by its permits. Today’s settlement filed in federal court in Iowa resolves those allegations. According to the Clean Air Task Force air pollution from these three plants contributes to 45 deaths and 760 asthma attacks annually.

“Clean air, clean water and a booming clean energy economy are part of an Iowa legacy that I am proud to leave for my children and grandchildren,” said Pam Mackey Taylor, chapter energy chair of the Sierra Club in Iowa. “Coal’s days are numbered here in Iowa. Pollution from MidAmerican’s coal-fired power plants causes major health problems in communities across Iowa. Retiring units at these coal plants and installing vital pollution controls at the remaining units will help Iowans breathe easier.”

Today’s announcement brings the total number of coal plants retired or announced to retire since 2010 to 130 plants and 50,717 megawatts, almost one sixth of the nation’s entire coal fleet. In 2009 these coal plants emitted more than 188 million metric tons of carbon pollution, the equivalent annual emissions of more than 39 million passenger vehicles. These plants also emitted more than 7,600 pounds of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, and caused 6,000 heart attacks, 60,000 asthma attacks and 3,600 premature lives annually.

Meanwhile, as coal plants are retired and only one new coal plant has broken ground since November 2008, the U.S. is also installing record amounts of clean energy. During President’s Obama’s first term the nation doubled its installations of wind and solar, and in 2012 the U.S. installed more wind and solar than coal, gas or nuclear power, with both wind and solar having their best year ever. In mid-2012 the U.S. hit the milestone of 50,000 megawatts of wind generation installed, producing enough electricity for 13 million American homes.

 

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