MUSCATINE, IOWA–Aug. 26, Clean Air Muscatine (CLAM) hosted a public forum in Discovery Park to discuss clean energy use in Muscatine. About 30 people attended the event, including representatives from Muscatine Power and Water and their board.
To start out the presentation, CLAM organizer, Freedom Malik, discussed CLAM’s concern with using natural gas from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to potentially power Muscatine Power and Water’s proposed natural gas combined heat and power plant. Malik shared how issues raised about air pollution from transporting shale gas (the product of fracking), groundwater pollution caused by fracking byproducts, and the issue of ground destabilization from using large amounts of ground water, all referenced in a report put out by the US Government Accountability Office, led the group to oppose Muscatine Power and Water investing in a natural gas power plant.
Next, Katie Rock, a former Muscatine County resident who now works for the Sierra Club and their Beyond Coal campaign in Des Moines, discussed why these organizations would encourage municipalities like Muscatine to invest more heavily in renewable energy rather than in natural gas. Rock commended Muscatine Power and Water for planning to decommission their coal plant but pushed to consider including only renewable energy in their portfolio. Citing statistics from the Rocky Mountain Institute, a think tank dedicated to increasing renewable energy usage, Rock claimed that a power plant, like the one at Muscatine Power and Water, could cost more to operate than it could justify for the amount of energy it produces in only two years. To avoid allowing the power plant to turn into what she described as a stranded asset, she encouraged adding more solar and wind to Muscatine Power and Water’s portfolio, as the cost to use them continues to go down and battery storage capacity will likely increase in the future. Rock also acknowledged the possibility of hydrogen, especially produced by wind, as a viable fuel source, but provided little information about it as it remains an emerging technology. In closing, Rock encouraged people to continue to communicate with Muscatine Power and Water to let them know about their interest in renewable energy. “I think MP&W is listening,” she said. They’re taking this decision very seriously.”
Finally, David Osterberg, a current professor in the University Of Iowa’s Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, founder of the Iowa Policy Project, and former state representative, discussed the experience he had advocating against coal powered power plants that wanted to expand past the size required by their community and how utilities boards rejected them because extra production costs and unused energy could cost customers extra money. From an economic perspective, he encouraged Muscatine Power and Water to prioritize solar and wind use because of their low cost per kilowatt hour. He did not discuss storage issues or other diversification strategies, though he did encourage the continued use of existing nuclear power plants because of their relatively low cost to operate and high energy output.