AEP to shut down coal unit at Rockport plant by 2028


ROCKPORT, Ind. (WEHT) Another Indiana utility joins a growing list of electric providers in shutting down coal fired units at their power plants.

American Electric Power announced they’re shutting down one of two units at their Rockport plant in Spencer County.

The Rockport plant uses coal to produce electricity. But in less than a decade, it won’t use as much.

“This is a trend that is happening,” says Wendy Bredhold of the Sierra Club.

AEP agreed to shut down one of the two coal fired units by the end of 2028. It’s part of a consent decree between the utility, the EPA, and environmental groups first reached in 2007. The original agreement called for the utility to install equipment to control emissions. Melissa McHenry, Managing Director for AEP, says shutting down the unit means they won’t have to install high cost emission reduction equipment, but other equipment they will put in place will reduce emissions.

“Originally, we were required to install equipment that would be over a billion dollars for each unit at that plant. This equipment will be less expensive, like 90% less than that, and it will achieve very significant sulfur dioxide reductions,” she explained.

The plant makes electricity for Indiana and Michigan Power customers in cities including South Bend and Muncie. McHenry says 2028 is when they had to decide on future plant investments.

“As we look at making significant costly investments to extend the life of a power plant, we have to weigh that against the other options for providing power to those customers,” she says.

AEP joins TVA, Owensboro Municipal Utilities, and other utilities across the country in shutting down coal fired units at their power plants. Bredhold says it will lower pollution levels, but wants to see affected communities start preparing for the change.

“To support these communities like Rockport, like Spencer County, through these transitions, is for public officials to acknowledge this transition is happening and create programs and policies, plans to support communities that have been depending on these coal plants for jobs,” she says.

AEP officials also say its still too early to tell how many of the more than 200 jobs here at the plant will be affected by the decision.

Meanwhile, Tom Utter of Lincolnland Economic Development Corp. says the decision by AEP could have a negative impact on southern Indiana, adding it could be hard to replace all of the lost contributions caused by the shut down of the coal unit.

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(This story was originally published on July 19, 2019)

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