Indianapolis groups protest Harding Street life extension

Despite the fact that Indianapolis Power & Light plans to end coal use at most of the Harding Street power plant, the Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, NAACP and Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light on Aug. 29 unveiled a new billboard ad campaign urging IPL to retire Harding Street and invest in renewable energy.

The ad campaign represents the first advertising campaign targeting IPL and will feature five different billboards located throughout Indianapolis, the club said.

“At over 55 years old, IPL’s aging Harding Street coal-fired power plant is our city’s biggest polluter, spewing toxic pollution into our community, and endangering the health of families across our city,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana Campaign Representative for the club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “This advertising campaign will send the message to IPL that the thousands of families, faith leaders, physicians, and others who called on IPL to retire the Harding Street plant will continue to fight to make sure that we are moving Indy toward a clean, renewable energy future.”

The advertising campaign comes just two weeks after the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved IPL’s request to raise rates on its customers in order to fund $511m in emissions controls at the Petersburg and Harding Street coal facilities, which could extend the lives of both plants.

“The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor ignored the imminent costs of carbon that will ultimately retire these old, coal plants. Their obligation as public agencies is to represent the best interests of Indiana families, consumers, and businesses. They must do better at weighing risks and planning for our future, not just the future for utility shareholders. They are placing losing bets with our money,” said Jennifer Washburn, Assistant Counsel at Citizens Action Coalition.

Located near downtown Indianapolis, IPL’s Harding Street plant is the city’s biggest polluter, contributing 88% of all toxic emissions from industrial sources in Marion County, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. According to the Clean Air Task Force, toxic pollution from IPL’s Harding Street coal plant contributes to 76 premature deaths, 120 heart attacks, 55 hospitalizations, and 1,300 asthma attacks every year.

IPL already plans to shut or fuel switch two of three Harding Street coal units

In the meantime, IPL, a unit of AES Corp. (NYSE: AES), is pursuing a revised Title V air permit for Harding Street that would allow the conversion of two coal units to firing natural gas. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is taking public comment until Sept. 16 on the draft version of the revised permit.

The planned conversions involve Units 5 and 6, with Unit 7 to stay on coal. Emissions at Unit 7 are already reduced with an electrostatic precipitator, low NOX burners, selective catalytic reduction technology (SCR) and a flue gas desulfurization (FGD) scrubber.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission on Aug. 14 approved $511m worth of new air controls for the “Big Five” coal units of IPL to meet air rules like the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). Its Big Five consists of Petersburg Units 1-4 and Harding Street Unit 7. The Big Five comprise 65% of IPL’s total generating capacity and more than 82% of its coal-fired capacity.

The Big Five are fully scrubbed and have fewer years of service compared to the other primarily coal-fired units in IPL’s fleet, which are due for retirement. IPL was approved to construct a Pulse Air Fabric Filter System on Units 2 and 3 at Petersburg, and, on all Petersburg units, other environmental controls and monitoring equipment, including activated carbon injection (ACI), sorbent injection, FGD upgrade (Units 1 and 2) and electrostatic precipitator (ESP) enhancements (Units 1, 3 and 4) and continuous emission monitoring at Petersburg. IPL also requested approval for environmental controls on Harding Street 7 including ACI, FGD upgrade, ESP and Sodium Based Solution System (SBS) upgrades and continuous emission monitoring.

IPL in that case did not request approval of a control plan for its Small Six coal-fired units. IPL said during the case that current analysis indicates that it is likely that the Eagle Valley coal plant will be fully retired ahead of MATS implementation, and that the coal-fired Harding Street Units 5 and 6 may be retired or repowered as gas-fired peakers. These units represent 472 MW of net capacity in total.

To replace this generation, in April IPL filed a petition with the IURC seeking a certificate to build a 550 MW to 725 MW combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) project at its Eagle Valley site and to refuel Harding Street Units 5 and 6 from coal to natural gas (106 MW net capacity each).

If approved, the CCGT is expected to be placed into service in April 2017 and the refueling project is expected to be complete by April 2016. If Harding Street Units 5 and 6 are not refueled, they will likely need to be retired because it is currently not economical to install controls on those units to comply with MATS.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.