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Indianapolis utility to convert coal plant to gas

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 15, 2014 at 4:06 pm •  Published: August 15, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An aging coal-fired power plant that Indianapolis' utility company had faced growing pressure to retire will be converted to cleaner-burning natural gas if state regulators endorse a revised plan the company announced Friday.

Indianapolis Power & Light President and CEO Kelly Huntington told The Associated Press the utility's decision to ask the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for approval next month to convert the 427-megawatt plant to natural gas was the "most reasonable, least-cost option" for its 470,000 customers in Indianapolis and surrounding counties.

IPL will stop burning coal at the plant at its 3-unit Harding Street complex on the city's south side in 2016, she said. The utility had previously planned to burn coal there until at least 2034.

Huntington said the utility took seriously the concerns of the Sierra Club and dozens of local groups that urged it to retire Harding Street's largest unit, which has long been Indianapolis' biggest industrial polluter. In 2012, that plant released more than 1.6 million pounds of toxic pollution and accounted for about 88 percent of all of Marion County's toxic industrial emissions, according to EPA data.

But IPL's decision to convert it to natural gas was driven solely by what's best for ratepayers based on the impact of new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations on their monthly electricity bills, she said. The conversion along with closing the site's coal ash pond would likely cost the average IPL residential customer about $1 more per month.

"We do listen to our stakeholders, but at the end of the day we have an obligation to evaluate these decisions in the framework set out by legislation and regulations so that it's in the best interest of our customers," she said.

A new review showed that the plant's cost of complying with a new EPA wastewater power-plant rule would have been about $200 million, she said, double the $95 million an earlier analysis projected it would cost to comply with previously announced EPA rules.

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