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Alliant Energy to upgrade Iowa coal plants, pay fine as part of Clean Air settlement

Changes expected to reduce air pollution from conversion of various plants

Alliant Energy’s Prairie Creek generating station in Cedar Rapids as seen from across the Cedar River on Wednesday, June 15, 2010. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Alliant Energy’s Prairie Creek generating station in Cedar Rapids as seen from across the Cedar River on Wednesday, June 15, 2010. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Interstate Power and Light has agreed to $620 million in upgrades to seven Iowa coal-fired power plants, including the Prairie Creek Generating Station in Cedar Rapids, to resolve a federal lawsuit involving alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

The company, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy, also will spend $6 million on environmental mitigation projects and pay a $1.1 million civil penalty as part of a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Interstate Power and Light will install new pollution control technology at its two largest plants, in Lansing and Ottumwa, and retire or convert to natural gas five plants in Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Burlington, Clinton and Marshalltown, the EPA reports.

“This settlement will eliminate thousands of tons of harmful air pollution each year, significantly improving air quality in Iowa and throughout the Midwest,” U.S. Attorney Kevin Techau of Iowa’s Northern District said in a prepared statement.

The EPA estimates the settlement will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 32,500 tons per year and nitrogen oxide emissions by 3,800 tons per year once fully implemented. The pollutants, converted to particulate matter in the air, can harm respiratory and cardiovascular systems and contribute to acid rain, smog and haze.

Most of the upgrades included in the settlement have already been done or are planned, Alliant Energy said in a statement.

“The terms we negotiated in this settlement are consistent with our long-term plan for clean energy,” said Doug Kopp, Alliant Energy president. “We settled with the EPA to avoid unnecessary delays and ongoing uncertainty associated with litigation.”

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Alliant plans to convert the largest boiler and turbine unit at the 245-megawatt Prairie Creek station in southwest Cedar Rapids from coal to natural gas in 2017. The 149-megawatt unit, which burns ultralow sulfur coal, began generating electricity in 1968.

The company will choose from five potential environmental projects, including solar energy and anaerobic digester installations, swaps of coal-fired boilers at schools, an alternative fuel vehicle replacement program and a residential program to change out wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, the EPA reported.

The settlement was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District for 30 days to allow for public comment. The company is required to pay the penalty within 30 days after the court approves the settlement.

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