The Sierra Club joined with consumer advocates, faith leaders, small business owners, and local community members to unveil a new, aggressive billboard campaign in Fort Wayne to call on Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) to retire the Rockport coal-fired power plant and invest more heavily in local renewable energy.
The Fort Wayne billboard campaign builds off of a broader advertising campaign launched by the Sierra Club last week, which includes billboards and online advertisements and will run in cities and communities across Indiana Michigan Power’s service territory.
Images for the billboard and online ad artwork can be found here.
The ad campaign comes as 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.
“By phasing out coal over time and investing in local, clean energy, I&M can bring greater prosperity to places like Fort Wayne,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “I&M must start planning now to gradually phase out the Rockport plant, and transition to less expensive, cleaner energy in I&M communities like Fort Wayne.”
I&M’s 20-year energy plan, which is under review by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, seeks to continue pouring customers’ hard-earned money into a dangerous and polluting coal-burning plant rather than a lower-cost plan that would phase out one half of the AEP-Rockport plant by 2022, cut toxic pollution in half and cut I&M’s carbon pollution by nearly 60 percent compared to 2012 levels.
One of the coal-fired boilers at the AEP-Rockport plant is owned by five wealthy out-of-state corporations and big banks: General Electric, Verizon, JP Morgan, Citigroup and tobacco giant Philip Morris. I&M operates the plant under a lease and operating agreement that expires in December 2022. The plant operates as a tax loophole that allows the corporate owners avoid or reduce income taxes, despite their huge corporate profits “Continuing to throw good money after bad is not in the public interest,” said Kerwin Olson, Executive Director of Citizens Action Coalition (CAC). CAC advocates on behalf of Hoosier consumers at the Utility Regulatory Commission, and has saved ratepayers more than $4 billion in excess utility charges since 1974. “It’s time to stop wasting billions of ratepayer dollars in yesterday, and instead, invest in tomorrow. Communities like Fort Wayne need I&M, their public utility, to generate local jobs and investment, not shelters for tax dodgers.”
“We are weary of placing the burden of fiscal weight on our citizens to power an antiquated coal power plant and asking nothing of the five corporations who have been leasing a coal-burning plant at Rockport,” said Rev. Kim Koczan, a Board Member of Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light. “Corporate greed does not speak for the values our community represents.”
Indiana & Michigan Power’s AEP-Rockport coal-burning power plant dumped 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 was the nation’s sixth largest carbon polluter in 2014 and Indiana’s second most toxic power plant.
The AEP-Rockport power plant is located along the Ohio River in Southern Indiana, near the Spencer County city of Rockport. It 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.
“As a business in northeast Indiana, we want to see solid, valuable jobs come to this area. Clean energy can provide those jobs and boost our local economy, bring innovation and support small business here in Fort Wayne,” said Megan Sutton, Co-Owner of the Narwhal and the Manatee, a local Fort Wayne retail business.
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