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Another Powerplant Story to Inspire Us
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by Nov 17, 2006 Sierra Club News Release | 2007

Now this is how you close down old coal-fired powerplants and get some renewable energy to boot!

After an epic 9-month negotiation the Springfield (IL) city council late yesterday approved on a 7-3 vote an agreement with Sierra Club that clears the way for construction of a new power plant with the lowest pollution rates in the nation, the purchase of 120 MW of wind power (more than double the installed capacity of wind in IL), closure of the Lakeside power plant (the #3 dirtiest plant in the country), increases energy efficiency funding 10-fold, and cleans up three other coal boilers to lowest SO2/NOx emission rates for existing boilers nationwide.

In a perfect world we would build no new coal. In the heart of coal country we have secured the next best thing “ a 25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide, more than 50 percent reduction in SO2/NOx, 90 percent mercury reduction requirements, and the largest wind investment by any City in the nation (equivalent to a 20 percent renewable portfolio standard), that includes powering state office buildings entirely with wind power. I hazard a guess that the City of Springfield is the first City in the nation that will be providing electricity to all of its residents that complies with Kyoto CO2 reduction targets (7 percent below 1990 CO2 levels by 2012).

In the process we took a lot of licks from a hostile press, primarily the daily paper that still refuse to draw the links with their AP stories about ice caps melting and homegrown CO2 reductions, but we refused to back down, even after a developer’s lawsuit derailed our first agreement three months ago. We rallied, filed our own suit, got the developer’s suit kicked out, and late yesterday a new agreement was reaffirmed.

This outcome is an incredible testament to efforts of our local volunteer leaders, our Chicago-based organizer Becki Clayborn who shuttled constantly to Springfield, our state clean air chair Verena Owen, and Chapter Director Jack Darin, who against some ugly odds never wavered. When we first began working on this project two years ago our allies told us not to bother because the new coal plant (with lax limits) was a done deal. We disagreed: we had members in Springfield who were going to have to live with this power plant and were not going to rollover. So — we engaged and picked up allies along the way (local IBEW), we fought hard and long, and we won - as only the Sierra Club can.

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