Council Bluffs Energy Center

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Council Bluffs Energy Center (also known as Walter Scott Jr. Energy Center) is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by MidAmerican Energy (which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway) near Council Bluffs, Iowa.

In 2003, MidAmerican began building a fourth plant, Council Bluffs Energy Center Unit 4. Unit 4 began operating on June 1, 2007; Lincoln Electric System acquired 12.6% ownership of the plant. In 2007, Plains Justice filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The suit charged MidAmerican Energy with violating the Clean Air Act by operating new sources of carbon emissions without proper permits, and constructing these new sources without first obtaining approval from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. In June 2007, MidAmerican Energy agreed to pay $27,500 in fines after the attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit claiming MidAmerican Energy had operated “11 emission points” at the Council Bluffs plant without proper permits from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Sierra Club is preparing to file a second lawsuit over emissions. [1]

Retirement plans for Units 1 and 2

According to a January 2013 agreement between MidAmerican Energy and the Sierra Club, boiler one and boiler two (49 MW and 82 MW respectively) will be retired by April 16, 2016.[2]

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Plant Data

  • Owner/Parent Company: MidAmerican Energy (owned by Berkshire Hathaway)
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 856 MW (Megawatts), 1778.9 MW (2008)
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 49 MW (1954), 82 MW (1958), 726 MW (1978), 922.5 MW (2007)[3]
  • Location: 2115 Navajo, Council Bluffs, IA 51501
  • GPS Coordinates: 41.185592, -95.842112
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • CO2 Emissions: 5,786,096 tons (2006), 11,969,514.26 (2008)[4]
  • SO2 Emissions: 17,523 tons (2006), 22,132.39 tons (2008)[5]
  • SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • NOx Emissions: 10,796 tons (2006), 7,809.76 tons (2008)[5]
  • Mercury Emissions: 390 lb. (2005)

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Council Bluffs

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[6] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[7]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Council Bluffs

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 8 $59,000,000
Heart attacks 13 $1,400,000
Asthma attacks 140 $7,000
Hospital admissions 6 $140,000
Chronic bronchitis 5 $2,200,000
Asthma ER visits 9 $3,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed April 2011

Council Bluffs ranked 35th on list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste

In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill.[8] The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.[9]

Council Bluffs Energy Center ranked number 35 on the list, with 1,092,320 pounds of coal combustion waste released to surface impoundments in 2006.[8]

Articles and Resources

Sources

  1. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed December 2007. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  2. "Consent Decree between Sierra Club and MidAmerican Energy Company, US District Court, Southern District of Iowa, Case No. 13-CV-21," page 6
  3. Iowa Operating Permit Application, Title V Annual Emissions Summary
  4. Iowa Operating Permit Application, Title V Annual Emissions Summary
  5. 5.0 5.1 Iowa Operating Permit Application, Form 5.0, Title V Annual Emissions Summary
  6. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  7. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  8. 8.0 8.1 Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
  9. TRI Explorer, EPA, accessed January 2009.

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