Coal Costs Go Beyond Electricity Bills - Center for Rural Affairs urges continued action on Sheldon Station Power Plant
LYONS, NE - Recently, Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) announced its decision to convert the larger of two power generation units at Sheldon Station Power Plant to run on hydrogen. The hydrogen fuel will be a by-product from Monolith Materials’ manufacturing process of Carbon Black.
“The announcement is a step in the right direction, but it is a job half-done. There has been no mention of converting the second unit away from coal,” said Lauren Kolojejchick-Kotch, Energy and Climate Associate at the Center for Rural Affairs.
According to Kolojejchick-Kotch, in Nebraska, the bulk of electricity generation is still based on burning coal, a process which emits mercury, arsenic, acid gases, lead, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into our air.
It is difficult to think that our energy choices might be polluting the spaces where we work and play. But the truth is that coal-fired power plants compromise our health and community well-being on a daily basis. Coal is not only becoming more and more expensive as a fuel source, it also creates and exacerbates costly health problems every day.
Lauren Kolojejchick-Kotch, Center for Rural Affairs
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released the agency’s annual Toxic Release Inventory, listing Sheldon Station as the second largest source of toxic pollution in Lancaster County, accounting for more than one-third of Lancaster County’s toxic pollution.
“NPPD ratepayer-owners living near Sheldon Station have the greatest health risks from toxins from the power plant, but we all pay the cost of burning coal in the form of doctor’s bills, care for chronic illness, and reduced productivity,” explained Kolojejchick-Kotch.
“Coal plants have to comply with minimum regulations in order to protect communities from these toxic pollutants. But even today some of the most dangerous are not regulated,” Kolojejchick-Kotch continued. “Just one safeguard, to limit carbon dioxide, has the potential to prevent up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, 490,000 missed work and school days, and 6,600 premature deaths annually by 2030. That adds up to about $93 billion dollars in health benefits in the next 15 years.”
Kolojejchick-Kotch explained further that in order to continue operating Sheldon Station on coal in the near term, NPPD has outlined a ‘bridge’ plan to comply with regulations for toxic pollution until 2023. However, NPPD itself recognized that using this approach may not be sufficient to meet those obligations, and will cost ratepayers an estimated $49 million.
“Sheldon Station is a looming financial liability to ratepayers in more ways than one. Nebraskans do not deserve an energy system that is unnecessarily costly, that makes us sick, and pollutes the clean air and water we rely on,” concluded Kolojejchick-Kotch. “It’s time for NPPD to be part of the solution by retiring coal in a timely manner at both units of Sheldon Station.”