The Indianapolis Two Thousand
That's right, the Indy 2,000—as in two thousand petitions the Sierra Club delivered to Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) on November 28, marking the official launch of the Club's Indianapolis Beyond Coal campaign. The petitions call on the electrical utility to retire its Harding Street coal plant, one of the dirtiest coal-burning power plants in the nation.
[Click on the image above to watch a video about the Harding Street plant.]
Indiana Beyond Coal organizer Megan Anderson, below at center, holding stack of petitions, was among the roughly 50 activists who rallied in downtown Indy and delivered the petitions to IPL headquarters.
"The Harding Street coal plant is less than seven miles from the heart of Indianapolis," Anderson said. "We collected the petition signatures over the past two months. Right now everything is on the line—decisions being made right now will determine our energy future for decades to come."
Photo courtesy of NUVO News
The Harding Street Station, as the plant is officially known, is the largest source of carbon pollution in Indianapolis. The Clean Air Task Force attributes 75 deaths, 120 heart attacks, and 1,300 asthma attacks each year to the plant's toxic emissions.
"While other utilities across the country move toward clean energy solutions like wind power and energy efficiency, IPL wants to charge customers millions of dollars to stay dependent on coal and continue to expose Indianapolis to toxic coal pollution," Anderson, at left, said at the November 28 rally.
"These upgrades will fail to address dangerous carbon pollution and coal ash. Indianapolis has a better vision for a clean energy future that protects both our health and our utility rates."
Anderson spearheaded the petition drive and recruited Sierra Club members and others to be "letter captains." Leading up to the petition delivery, Club volunteers and staff held phone banks, produced fact sheets, did online and social media outreach, and tabled and canvassed with volunteers at events in Indianapolis and other locales around central Indiana to gather petition signatures.
Among the speakers at the campaign kickoff rally was Kerwin Olson, below with mic, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition. "In addition to wreaking havoc on public health and environmental quality, coal has become a detriment to our economy," Olson said. "Over the last ten years, IPL's ratepayers have seen their bills increase nearly 44 percent, largely as a result of the costs associated with burning coal. It's long past due for IPL to shift gears and invest aggressively in energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy so Hoosiers can save energy, save money, and breathe easy."
Also speaking were Gabriel Filippelli, director of the Center for Urban Health, Rev. T. Wyatt Watkins, a board member of Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light, and Niesha McKinley, a concerned—and pregnant—Indianapolis parent. The three are pictured to the right of Kerwin, above.
"My son has had asthma since he was seven weeks old, and with a baby on the way, I feel it's more urgent than ever to clean up the air in Indianapolis," said McKinley, at left. "Every day IPL's coal plant operates is another day my children are exposed to toxic pollution; IPL needs to retire its dirty old coal-burning plant as soon as possible."
Last year the Harding Street plant released more than 140 pounds of mercury, a known neurotoxin, into the air, along with other pollutants that cause respiratory ailments such as asthma. After the coal is burned the ash is kept in ponds outside the plant near the White River, which runs through the city. The EPA ranks several of IPL's eight coal ash ponds as high hazard, meaning a failure of one of the ponds could cause loss of life or property damage.
A recent NAACP report ranked Harding Street among 75 U.S. coal plants to receive a failing grade on their environmental justice scorecard. The report, Coal Blooded: Putting Profits before People, analyzes toxic emissions in conjunction with demographic factors such as race, income, and population density to rank the nation's 378 coal-fired power plants. Indiana is among the top ten coal-energy-producing states in the country, which have an average lung cancer rate 19 percent higher than the U.S. average.
Photo by Mark Lee
Learn more about the Sierra Club's work to move America beyond coal.