Indianapolis Power and Light "coals" it quits: IPL ditches coal for natural gas

By Jimmy Feichtner

With the growing trend of businesses striving to go green, environmentalists are striving for much less pollution than the previous decades. Many companies are looking to lessen their carbon footprint to provide a healthier atmosphere for their surrounding environment.

Recently the Indianapolis Power and Light Company made an announcement that will positively affect the air in Indy. Announced Aug. 15, IPL will soon be filing plans with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to repower its station on Harding street from coal-burning to natural gas according to IPL’s website. The plant plans to limit their reliance on coal to 44 percent by 2017 according to their website.
This was no spontaneous gesture by the Indianapolis utility company. For quite some time organizations and eco-activists have been pushing the company to make a change. A total of 55 local groups had passed resolutions to pressure IPL to stop burning coal. Among those groups was IUPUI’s own Graduate and Professional Student Government.

With the students supporting the legislation and the execution carried out GPSG, was able to aid in the fight to reduce the IPL’s coal dependency. GPSG president, Tony Greco, was proud to see the students and student government work together.

“Not only did I think this legislation was a really good idea and that the IPL would acknowledge the environmental issues that come with it, but it was exciting to see students working through the system, through the student government to make change happen on such a short time scale,” Greco said.

Greco also felt that it was not just a victory for student government, but also for the city and Indy environmentalists as well.

“I think this is a big win for environmentalists in the city and environmental justice. I don’t think we have had this big of a win in terms of making Indianapolis greener,” Greco said.

“Having a coal plant right next to Lucas Oil stadium, right next to Victory Field; not only does it send the wrong message as city that wants to host conventions and Super Bowls again, it’s just not good for the residents and I think that’s important.”

Students in IUPUI’s Sierra Club chapter also played their part. The club’s Beyond Coal movement gathered nearly 1500 petitions from students and staff according to the Indianapolis Star. The petitions were to urge IUPUI and the city to lead in cleaner energy practices.

This was not IUPUI’s first attempt to bring awareness about the unhealthy side effects of coal burning facilities. In 2011 IUPUI’s Science Department led a study that examined the amount of mercury released into the air and water from coal burning facilities. The students took samples of soil and water at mercury hot spots near coal burning plants like IPL.

Currently several IUPUI organizations are part of Sierra Club’s Power Indy Forward campaign that aims to eliminate coal burning at IPL by 2020. Those included aside from GPSG are IU School of Medicine Medical Student Council, IUPUI Active Student Artists, IUPUI Philosophy Club, IUPUI Sociology Club, IUPUI Student Sustainability Council and IUPUI Undergraduate Student Government.

According to the EPA, the Harding Street plant was responsible for more than 80 percent of the toxic industrial pollution in Marion County in 2012. Side effects of this pollution not only contaminate surrounding bodies of water, but can also cause premature heart and asthma attacks.