The focus will shift back to the Springfield City Council in the city’s power plant saga following Friday’s dismissal by the U.S. Environmental Appeals Board of developer David Maulding’s appeal of City Water, Light and Power’s permit to build a new generator.
Web extra: Read the appeal board’s dismissal (PDF)
Aldermen on the utilities committee will consider three ordinances Wednesday that would essentially re-enact the original deal the city made with the Sierra Club to forego its objections to the permit and make CWLP more environmentally friendly. The difference is that the ordinances call for no binding contract with the Sierra Club.
Under the ordinances, as in the original deal, the city would be obligated to buy wind-generated power, reduce power plant emissions and improve conservation measures.
The ordinances are subject to amendment by the utilities committee. Two of the five aldermen on the panel voted against the original deal, and a third who voted yes – Ward 3 Ald. Frank Kunz – has been hostile to the idea of requiring the city to buy wind power.
The Sierra Club says that if aldermen approve the ordinances, as well as two other conditions that would ensure the agreement’s survival past the term of this city council, the club will drop its own appeal. With dismissal of Maulding’s challenge, that appeal is the only thing holding up construction of the $500 million plant.
The Sierra Club’s conditions are:
nThat the city sign a contract with a wind power provider for 120 megawatts of power;
nAnd that the city ask the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to enforce stricter emissions requirements that would be enacted by one of the ordinances.
The city has received eight bids for wind power but has not released details on the bidders or how much the wind companies are asking the city to pay for the power.
The Environmental Appeals Board, a court-like body under the U.S. EPA, ruled Friday that Maulding’s appeal was moot because, simply by appealing, he nullified the city-Sierra Club agreement, which was part of the power plant’s permit.
Maulding said he appealed because he was concerned about the potential costs of the deal. Questions were raised throughout the debate about how much the city will end up spending on wind power. Now that the wind bids are in, the city should have more definitive numbers.
The Sierra Club subsequently filed its own appeal of the stripped-down permit – as it had threatened it would without the agreement. The group argues, among other things, that the city’s planned coal-fired generator would not do enough to protect the environment and that the city should have considered other alternatives for its energy needs.
The board’s decision was not a surprise, but it did clear away some uncertainty and pave the way for action on the part of the Sierra Club and the city, which haven’t communicated much in the wake of the appeals.
Both the city and the environmental group issued statements saying they hope the decision will get the original agreement back on track.
The decision “paves the way to restoring the prior agreement between Sierra Club and the city,” said Becki Clayborn, the Sierra Club’s Midwest regional representative.
CWLP general manager Todd Renfrow said in a statement that the Sierra Club’s ideas are good ones.
“With or without the Sierra Club debate, investing money in customer conservation programs, retro-fitting our plants to burn coal cleaner and adding a renewable fuel source are all good initiatives for CWLP to be supportive of,” he said. “The added benefit we happen to have by supporting these programs is that CWLP can do them for a small investment that has a bigger pay-off later, when environmental regulations will be more stringent.”
While the estimated cost of the Sierra Club deal is $37 million, Renfrow said Friday that the initiatives could pay for themselves within eight years.
The city hopes to have its new 200-megawatt power plant operational by 2010 or 2011.
Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523 or chris.wetterich
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