MidAmerican says coal cutbacks won't affect customers - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

MidAmerican says coal cutbacks won't affect customers

© The company doesn't expect any of their changes will mean job cuts, or higher energy bills. © The company doesn't expect any of their changes will mean job cuts, or higher energy bills.

MidAmerican Energy will be burning less coal at several Iowa power plant boilers. The company agreed to the change after a settlement with a national environmental group earlier this week.

Last year, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit claiming MidAmerican was violating the Clean Air Act. They said the company was emitting more pollution than permitted in Sergeant Bluff, Bettendorf, and Council Bluffs.

To avoid costly litigation, MidAmerican agreed to stop burning coal at seven Iowa boiler units by April, 2016. They'll also limit emissions at two more units.

A Sierra Club representative says they're happy with the changes.

"That's going to have a lot of benefits for the health of communities, and it's also going to have the added benefit of reducing carbon pollution that is emitted from coal plants," said Sierra Club Spokesperson Emily Rosenwasser.

One of the MidAmerican facilities that'll be cutting back on coal is right here in Siouxland. The George Neal Energy Center, near Sergeant Bluff, will stop burning the solid fuel source in two of the four boiler units. Company officials say they'll move the coal out for something new, possibly natural gas.

"Some of these facilities that we're looking at are our older generation plants. Taking that into consideration, the move to natural gas is just a good fit," said MidAmerican Spokesperson Tina Potthoff.

It's a move the company says they were considering long before the Sierra Club settlement, mostly because it could reduce carbon emissions.

"The actual reductions will depend on the utilization of the plant as a natural gas unit, but we do expect significant reductions in emission," said Potthoff.

Also in the agreement, a change to the energy center's other two units. The company will keep burning coal in them, but will install a new cleaning system to limit emissions by the end of 2014.

The company doesn't expect any of their changes will mean job cuts, or higher energy bills. 

MidAmerican is the largest energy company in Iowa. They provide gas and electricity to more than 700,000 customers.

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