South Bend Council votes unanimously for clean energy transition

City leaders speak out for a future with cleaner energy, while transitioning away from AEP-Rockport Coal Plant.

Sierra Club, South Bend, IN -- Tonight, the South Bend Common Council voted unanimously to endorse reduced dependence on coal and increased investment in clean energy for the City of South Bend.  

The resolution, introduced by Council Vice President Oliver Davis (D-6th), encourages both Indiana Michigan Power and the State of Indiana to “to reduce dependence on coal-based power as expeditiously and cost-effectively as possible via investment in lower-carbon and distributed generation and demand-side management, in a manner that provides long-term affordability and reliability for South Bend ratepayers and responsibly stewards ratepayer investments.”

The resolution was co-sponsored by Council President Tim Scott (D-1st), Utilities Committee Chair Dr. David Varner (R-5th) and Council Member At Large Gavin Ferlic (D). In an attached exhibit to the resolution, the Council expresses concern about health impacts from burning coal and the financial risk of continuing to invest in I&M’s coal-fired power plant at a cost of $3 billion in pollution controls.

“The scripture says: ‘I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable.’ - Jeremiah 2:7. By voting YES tonight, we once again begin the process of making our land fertile, our air cleaner, and our environment livable.  God gave this earth to man out of love, and it is out of love that we should begin to take better care of it,” said Aurelia Jackson of 1st Lady of Olivet AME Church in South Bend.

The Council was also critical of I&M’s lack of investment in energy efficiency, urging I&M to “invest in expanded, cost-effective programs to weatherize and improve energy efficiency in homes with low-income and fixed-income residents so families can better afford their utility bills.” The Council also supported investments to create “a significant clean energy industry, providing quality local jobs and driving cutting-edge technology.”

Indiana & Michigan Power’s AEP-Rockport coal-burning power plant spewed  nearly 6 million pounds of toxic pollution into Indiana’s air, land and water in 2014, according to data I&M reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to EPA data, AEP-Rockport also was the nation's sixth largest carbon polluter in 2014 and Indiana's second most toxic power plant.

Becky Reimbold, Proprietor of Just Goods in South Bend, said, “I applaud this collaborative effort between community members, council members and activists as a positive sign that our city is looking ahead to find the best ways to address our energy needs and decrease our impact on the environment.  Hopefully, South Bend's example will show our state regulators and legislators how transitioning to cleaner energy is not only possible, it’s practical.”

The Council’s action comes after I&M has filed plans with the State of Indiana to spend more than $3 billion to retrofit and keep burning coal at AEP-Rockport until 2035 and beyond, plus billions more to buy out-of-state coal that powers the plant. I&M rejected a lower-cost plan that would phase out half the plant by 2022 and invest instead in cleaner energy that could include locally based solar, wind and energy efficiency.

The AEP-Rockport power plant is located along the Ohio River in Southern Indiana, near the Spencer County city of Rockport, but it provides electricity via long-distance power lines to I&M customers in South Bend, Fort Wayne, Muncie, Marion and other northern Indiana communities. The plant sits 16 miles south of Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home in Lincoln City and 20 miles southwest of the popular tourist community of Santa Claus, Indiana.

Original story here