Plug is pulled on proposed power plant - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Plug is pulled on proposed power plant

by John Wilmer

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- After more than three years, the coal plant debate is now over. LS Power announced a halt on development of their coal-fired power plant in Waterloo.

The project began in the summer of 2005 when LS Power launched the billion dollar coal plant plan. The company first needed Waterloo to annex and rezone the land. Last March, a public hearing brought more than four hours of heated public comment, ending with the city council passing the first reading of the plan.

In November, two non-profits representing Iowa doctors and nurses urged the DNR to use stronger air quality standards in plant air permits. Just this past week, Dynegy dissolved their joint venture with LS Power to develop the plant.

This decision came as a surprise to many, especially with the time, effort, and money put in this project by LS Power.                   

Representatives with LS Power say slowing energy use and the downturn in the economy are the reasons why they are deciding to pull out of Waterloo.

"The company really looked at it and we tried to find out how can we serve this market most effectively and we decided to focus our resources on those other sites and not on the waterloo sight," Assistant Vice President of LS Power, Mark Milburn said.

The field where the plant would have gone sits empty and will most likely continue to produce crops rather than energy and neighbors say that is fine by them. Phyllis Morgan has lived near the proposed plant site all of her life and she opposed the coal-fired power plant from the beginning.

"We don't want that coal plant around here. We don't need it around here and there is enough air pollution anyway," Morgan said.

At city hall it was different story, Mayor Tim Hurley learned of LS Power's decision Monday afternoon.

"It was a great project and I see it as a loss not just to the city but the region and the state for all the things, all of the opportunities that it held for all of us," Hurley said.

Officials with LS Power say they will continue with other projects across the country, which includes coal, natural gas, wind, and solar power plants.

The plan for the Waterloo plant has been years in the making, and one full of controversy.  The power company had several hurdles to clear but ultimately, the project ran out of steam.

LS Power initiated its proposal to build the billion dollar coal-fired plant in 2005, and it was controversial from the very beginning.

One of the first steps in the process was convincing the city of Waterloo to annex and rezone land for the site.  This meant rezoning about 260 acres of agriculturally zoned land to industrial.  Throughout the controversial ordeal, opponents cited health concerns.

A hearing in March 2008 brought both supporters and opponents of the plant.  After more than four hours of public comment, the city council voted six to two to pass the first reading of the plan.

The next major step at the state level, was for the DNR to issue a draft air permit to the power company.  LS Power has said as soon as the state approved that permit, plant construction would have begun. 

Online Reporter: John Wilmer

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