OPPD proposes burning coal at North Omaha plant for three more years

A setback for environmentalists and air quality.
Published: Jun. 24, 2022 at 5:28 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A setback for environmentalists and air quality. Under a new proposal, the Omaha Public Power District would continue to burn coal at its North Omaha power plant for three more years.

Environmentalists and health experts are concerned. Dr. David Corbin, chairperson of the Nebraska Sierra Club’s energy committee said, “This coal is one of the biggest polluters of course in our area.”

Corbin said, “North Omaha has high incidents of asthma and this is one of the high contributors to that and we have one of the highest death rates of asthma in the United States.”

Over the past several years, OPPD has converted three of the five units at the North Omaha plant to natural gas. The utility originally planned to convert the remaining two units by 2023 but changed the date to 2026.

Corbin said, “This was just shocking. We thought everything was moving in the right direction and then they announce this.”

OPPD spokesperson Jodi Baker says the delay is mainly due to backlogs involving the nation’s electrical grid, supply chain issues, and decisions at the federal level.

Baker said, “The issue is kind of revolving. We’ve seen a lot of renewables being added, a lot of changes in the marketplace, and really this wasn’t something that could have been foreseen when we initially announced our plans to sort of transition our North Omaha station away from coal.”

Corbin says the proposed delay could have been avoided.

Corbin said, “That’s three more years of one of the biggest polluters in this area. If they could have moved earlier and been on board with what we were trying to ask them to do years ago, I don’t believe they would be in this mess.”

Baker says the proposed delay will not impact OPPD’s long-term plan for emissions reduction. Baker said, “This is one way we’re working to keep our power reliably flowing for our customers and it does not impact our net-zero goal.”

Corbin says the climate is in crisis, and it needs help now. He said, “People say it’s coming. Well, it is not coming. It’s here.”

OPPD is taking public comment. The board expects to vote on the proposed delay in August.

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