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August 31, 2013

Duke Energy agrees to settlement

Beyond Coal campaign presses for green jobs, energy initiatives

TERRE HAUTE — Duke Energy has reached a legal settlement with environmental groups Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, Save the Valley and Valley Watch, establishing deadlines for retiring coal-fired power units at Duke Energy’s Wabash River Station in West Terre Haute.

Under the terms of the settlement, Duke Energy will retire units 2, 3, 4 and 5 at the Wabash River plant and will also stop burning coal at Wabash River unit 6 by June 1, 2018, according to the environmental groups. A total of 668 megawatts of coal-fired power will come offline as a part of this agreement.

The action is part of a settlement of the group’s appeal to air permits issued in 2008 from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

“We had an appeal of [Duke Energy’s] Edwardsport plant’s air pollution permit, so this is a settlement of that appeal where we agreed to drop that claim so that we can get a commitment from Duke Energy in terms of firm dates to retire the Wabash River units that are coal-fired and also devote our legal resources to more important issues, which include our ongoing [separate] appeal of the Edwardsport plant with the Indiana Court of Appeals,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign.

“Plus we wanted to make sure that there are some investments in clean energy, and that will mean some clean energy jobs as well, which will come out of this settlement which might not have happened otherwise,” Perras said.

Prior to the settlement, Duke Energy had announced it planned to retire four 1950s-vintage units, totaling 350 megawatts at the station by the 2015 federal mercury rule deadline.

“We had already announced what our plans were and that we were looking to convert unit 6 to [natural] gas, so basically what the settlement says is that if the mercury rule would be vacated or delayed, we would retire those units [No. 2,3,4 and 5] by 2018,” said Angeline Protogere, Duke Energy spokeswoman.

Unit 1 at the Wabash River Generating Station is owned by the Wabash Valley Power Association. That coal-fired unit is used as part of a coal-gasification facility for WVPA.

Duke Energy has been exploring converting the 318-megawatt unit 6 to natural gas and still has an option to do that earlier than 2018, Protogere said.

The settlement calls for Duke Energy to either implement a 30-megawatt “feed-in tariff,” which is a set, long-term price “for green energy, based on factors such as the type and size of green energy, which is generally used with smaller power generators,” Protogere said.

“If we don’t do that, we will either construct or enter into a contract for 15 megawatts of wind and/or solar [power generation]. If we pick this option, that is when we have to retire some oil-fired peaking stations we have, one called Miami Wabash and Connersville, which total about 166 megawatts,” Protogere said. Those units would be retired by June 1, 2018.

A peaking station is used to provide power during high times of power demand.

If the option for 15 megawatts is pursued, Wabash River Units 2 through 5 must be retired by the mercury rule compliance deadline or by June 1, 2017, whichever occurs first, Protogere added.

Duke Energy is the largest electric power holding company in the United States, with more than $110 billion in total assets. Its regulated utility operations serve approximately 7.2 million electric customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest.

In Indiana, Duke Energy provides about 7,500 megawatts of owned electric capacity to approximately 790,000 customers, making it the state’s largest electric supplier.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard. greninger@tribstar.com.

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