A group of four women are concerned about the future of Joppa’s Electric Energy Incorporated (EEI) plant, and they are trying to raise public awareness about the future of it.
Kady McFadden, a representative of the Sierra Club, believes EEI’s days are numbered, partially because the plant has not kept up with the technology. McFadden said citizens should start thinking about the future of the plant now.
McFadden, joined by Carrie Otto, of the Prairie Rivers Network, and Robin Garlish, of Peoria and Phyliss Oliver, of Cypress, visited the Metropolis Planet on Feb. 13 to express concerns about the plant.
The Sierra Club was founded in 1892 by conservationist John Muir. It is the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with over 2 million members and supporters.
The Prairie Rivers Network is Illinois’ advocate for clean water and healthy rivers. The not-for-profit organization is based in Champaign.
EEI, which was founded in the 1950s, was a part of Ameren, a St. Louis-based company, but recently, a transaction was finalized selling EEI to the Houston, Texas-based company Dynegy.
Dynegy purchased five coal-fired power plants, including Bartonville’s E.D. Edwards plant, near where Garlish lives. When the plant was sold, Garlish said she picked up the phone and called the office of Dynegy’s Chief Executive Officer Robert Flexon.
Garlish says her phone conversation with Flexon eventually led to a public meeting in Peoria held last August. She said several Dynegy’s heads of departments were at the panel discussion.
According to Garlish, Flexon stated at the meeting that he works for the shareholders. But when asked which, if any, of the plants would be first to shut down, Flexon said Joppa would be the first.
McFadden says when Ameren owned the coal-fired plants, the company was hemorrhaging money because “coal is not competitive any more,” she said.
Oliver wonders what they are going to do with these plants. She is also concerned with the health effects, pointing out people who live near the Joppa plant just get used to what comes out of the stacks. “You just don’t think about it,” she said.
Another big concern of hers is if the plant shuts down, what would happen to it and who would be responsible for cleaning it up.
According to McFadden, EEI still uses the same technology it has had since the 1950s, pointing out currently there are dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) polluting the air. A September 2013 study by the Sierra Club indicates concentrations of SO2 could be as much as four to five times the limit.
A byproduct from the plant is coal ash, and Otto points out the two coal ash pits at EEI are not lined for protection. She is concerned because in December 2010, seven wells near the plant were sampled and there were high levels of contamination for 21 different substances:
According to Otto, there was no groundwater monitoring required at the plant prior to 2010, and Joppa ranked 75th on the list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste and discharges from the ash pond flow directly into the Ohio River.
At the August 2013 public meeting, Flexon alluded to the “five year variance” Dynegy received to allow the plants to operate as is for the next five years.
The variance from the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) allows extra time for the five coal-fired power plants to install pollution controls because the power plants have told the IPCB the upgrades would create an “economic hardship,” according to a November 2013 Associated Press article. The IPCB panel voted 3-1 to allow the variance, with Chairwoman Deanna Glosser casting the vote against allowing the variances, stating she did not believe the company demonstrated an economic hardship.
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