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OPPD may push back retirement of some coal-burning units at north Omaha station

Posted at 8:01 AM, Jun 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-20 11:43:09-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — For over 70 years, coal has been burning in north Omaha to fuel the metro's utilities.

Two of these large cylinders burn low sulfur coal and Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) is converting them to natural gas.

The other three of these large cylinders at OPPD’s north Omaha station are available to run on natural gas and are being retired.

“The direction we're going is good, it allows us to bring on modern assets it allows us to keep bills low it allows us to reduce emissions,” said Brad Underwood, OPPD Vice President.

But OPPD is facing some static in making those changes.

“Waiting in line so that people can evaluate our partners at southwest power pool can evaluate the implications of bringing new generators to the transmission system,” said Underwood.

Retiring and refueling the north Omaha station was expected to be complete by the end of 2023. Now, they're recommending it be pushed to the end of 2026.

Officials with OPPD say if they switch over too early, customers will experience disruptions.

Those who fought to get OPPD to retire the coal plants eight years ago are disappointed in the new timeline.

“The fact that it took them an entire decade from when they looked the public in the eye and voted to retire the coal plant really makes you wonder whether they mean what they say. Is it three or is it going to be longer than that?” said Graham Jordison, a community organizer with Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.

OPPD says their timeline is based on milestone achievements, and they want to be transparent with the community.

“We want to make sure that folks understand is our intentions and commitments here at the station are unchanged,” said Underwood.

Jordison says it's an environmental racism issue.

Advocates say the utility company needs to do more.

“They need to also look at what reparations might look like for a community like north Omaha. Fifty years of breathing in the pollution of north Omaha station. I think that's worth something to the community,” said Jordison.

OPPD’s board of directors will vote on the recommendation at their August meeting.

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