The City-Parish Council Tuesday night voted unanimously to make a new, 20-year investment — 19 actually, but we rounded it up — in the Rodemacher coal-fired power plant in Boyce, a plant in which Lafayette Utilities System owns a 50 percent stake along with CLECO (30 percent ownership) and the Louisiana Energy and Power Authority (20 percent). The council voted to borrow $88 million dollars through the sale of 19-year bonds to generate the revenue for the city’s share of federally mandated emission-control improvements to the plant — improvements that must be completed by 2015.
Despite the urging of nearly a dozen residents who asked the council to delay the vote on the bond ordinance in order to give the community time to further explore its energy-generating options, the council was swayed by LUS Director Terry Huval’s explanation of the economic necessity of reinvesting in the Rodemacher plant.
“The cost of delivered coal tends to remain stable over long periods of time,” Huval told the council, arguing that natural gas prices fluctuate and pointing out that CLECO, which relies more on natural gas for generating electricity, has some of the highest utility rates in the state. “We’ve concluded that taking this approach of adding emissions controls at the plant that meet federal requirements is the smarter move for us to take,” Huval said.
Although he didn’t rule out future investments in renewable energies like solar and wind, telling the council that “[w]e certainly as a community want to look into that and pursue that,” Huval argued that the up-front cost for renewables is extremely high and that it’s “still cheaper to generate power with coal even at the current natural gas prices,” which are at historical lows due to supply generated by relatively new shale extraction technologies.
Several residents pressed the council to defer action on the bond ordinance, among them Harold Schoeffler, chair of the local Sierra Club, who argued that future federal requirements regarding emissions at coal-fired plants could mushroom the cost of operating Rodemacher.
“Coal is an outdated, unhealthy, inefficient and environmentally extremely damaging technology that many communities are moving away from across the country,” resident Haywood Martin told the council in what became a refrain among those who addressed the panel. “We ought to be looking for ways to move away from coal.”
To watch last night's council meeting, click here.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, this is what our cool town’s reinvestment in the Rodemacher plant will create in one year, so multiply it times 19 for the term of the bonds:
* 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary human cause of global warming — as much carbon dioxide as cutting down 161 million trees
* 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which causes acid rain that damages forests, lakes, and buildings, and forms small airborne particles that can penetrate deep into lungs
* 500 tons of small airborne particles, which can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility
* 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx), as much as would be emitted by half a million late-model cars. NOx leads to formation of ozone (smog) which inflames the lungs, burning through lung tissue making people more susceptible to respiratory illness
* 720 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), which causes headaches and place additional stress on people with heart disease
* 220 tons of hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), which form ozone
* 170 pounds of mercury, where just 1/70th of a teaspoon deposited on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat
* 225 pounds of arsenic, which will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion
* 114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium