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Scrapbook: Iowa Chapter Cheers Coal Plant Cancellation

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March 09, 2009

Iowa Chapter Cheers Coal Plant Cancellation

Coal The Sierra Club's Iowa Chapter is cheering last week's Alliant Energy decision to cancel its planned coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown. The decision comes after months of hard work from chapter staff, volunteers and a whole coalition of organizations committed to bringing clean energy to the state.

Neila Seaman, chapter director for Iowa, said everyone pitched in to the let the state Department of Natural Resources know that they wanted more hearings on this plant so they could voice their concerns over the dirty energy.

"Our strategy was twofold. First, our plan was to get the comment period extended from 30 to 90 days," explained Seaman. "We also knew from previous meetings with Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Rich Leopold and his staff that the Iowa DNR was planning to require only two hearing sites." The chapter and coalition wanted more meetings.

Ak wind So Seaman and many others took on a major postcard and email outreach effort to state members, which helped garner more than 600 comments to the governor and the state DNR.  It was enough to convince the state DNR to extend the Alliant plant's comment period to 90 days and add five more hearing sites.

Seaman said they also worked to garner extensive media attention on these hearings for the proposed Alliant plant. They kept their members updated on the details in order to turn out large crowds, and they also planned editorial board meetings in the cities where the hearings would be held.

The plant had been in the works since July 2007 and Seaman also credited the club and coalition's legal team for their incredible hard work challenging the plant all along.

Then last Wednesday they heard of Alliant's plans to cancel due "to a combination of factors including the current economic and financial climate, increasing environmental, legislative and regulatory uncertainty regarding regulation of future greenhouse gas emissions and the terms placed on the proposed power plant by regulators."

The morning Seaman heard the news was coming, she and other chapter members had been meeting with Environmental Protection Agency and state DNR officials most of the day. She said she was exhausted from a long day - since the company didn't make the official cancellation announcement until the next day.

"In (those) 24 hours, my emotions (had) traveled both ends of the spectrum.  I was exhausted Wednesday afternoon and exhilarated by mid-morning Thursday," Seaman said.

She also has a long list of people and organizations to thank for their work on the campaign:

"Sierra Club staff and leaders who made this happen are many.  As the only Iowa staff member, I worked with Pam Mackey-Taylor, our chapter Energy chair; Wally Taylor, chapter Legal chair; Jane Clark, chapter vice chair; Mike Carberry a member activist from Iowa City; and probably some folks I'm forgetting. James Gignac in Chicago, provided valuable assistance.  Sierra Club staff helping with the action alerts included Stacey Kawakami in Minneapolis, Nicole Ghio, Kelly Gould, Natalie Foster and Jesse Danzig.

"Iowa partners working as many angles from legal to campaign strategies included Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, Iowa Global Warming, Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, Community Energy Solutions, Plains Justice, Environmental Law & Policy Center and many others."

She apologizes if she forgot anyone, but hopes they know it wasn't intentional - as she said everyone's been tired and excited for days now.

What's next for the Iowa chapter? "We get so few environmental victories in Iowa that we're going to take a couple of days to celebrate this success before we plan our next goals and objectives."

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