Photo: Kurt and Sybilla( Flickr) The Perry K Steam Plant has been burning coal for more than 120 years.

Photo: Kurt and Sybilla( Flickr)
The Perry K Steam Plant has been burning coal for more than 120 years.


The last load of coal was delivered to the Perry K Steam Plant in Indianapolis o Monday.

Once the final tons of coal are burned in mid-March, Perry K Steam will burn only natural gas.

The company has been burning coal for more than 120 years, providing steam for heat and hot water to about 200 customers downtown Indianapolis.

Because of the environmental regulations, Citizens Energy Group, which operates the plant, began to switch the plant to natural gas in 1998. The amount of coal they burned each year has been reduced from a million tons to 150,000 tons.

Upgrading the coal burners to comply with new emission standards would cost the company about $24 million, so it decided to complete the conversion from burning coal to natural gas—a move that costs only $9 million.

Citizens Energy spokeswoman Sarah Holsapple says it’s a win-win situation–for the environment and customers.

“For them, the change is only in their bill,” she says. “And I think they would appreciate the fact that the bills are not going to go up. The services they are going to be receiving are still going to be safe and reliable as it always has been.”

But Hoosier Environmental Council Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda warns there are still environmental risks to using natural gas.

He says while burning natural gas is cleaner than coal, there’s conflicting evidence on whether extracting natural gas from the ground affects water quality.

“We want to encourage the company to be open and direct with the public about some of the risks respecting natural gas extraction,” he says.

Several other facilities are also switching to natural gas.

Indianapolis Power and Light is building an entirely new natural gas plant in Martinsville, and Duke Energy is still deciding whether to convert one of its coal-burning units at its Wabash River plant into a natural gas unit.


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