Columbia officials not surprised by EPA move

Piles of waste wood sit near coal piles at the Columbia Municipal Plant Monday afternoon. City utility officials say they want to use biomass to help meet the new limits the EPA announced Monday.

The City of Columbia's Water & Light Department said it has expected for some time rules similar to those the EPA announced on Monday.

Department spokesperson Connie Kacprowicz told KRCG 13 the city already plans to get 30 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030. She said the city already plans to test a biomass substitute for coal later this summer. The substitute is designed to work in coal-fired plants with few modifications. If it works, and if costs are not prohibitive, she said the city might stop using coal in its power plant.

On Monday,the EPA announced plans to require U.S. power plants to reduce their CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2030. That agency says Missouri should reduce its emissions to 1,544 pounds per megawatt-hour (lb/MWh) by 2030, down from 1,963 lb/MWh in 2012. The EPA says states can meet their reduction goals through strategies such as efficiency programs for consumers, expanding the use of renewable or nuclear energy sources and switching coal-fired plants to burn other fuel types.

Columbiaâ??s power plant is an example of the latter. Kacprowicz said the plant currently burns coal about 85 percent of the time, with waste wood making up most of the rest.

Even if coal was phased out at Columbiaâ??s power plant, it would still account for most of the cityâ??s electrical generation. Kacprowicz said the plant only provides about 6-7 percent of the cityâ??s electricity, and renewables account for about another 7 percent. Most of the cityâ??s power comes from coal-fired plants elsewhere in the region. Statewide, the Energy Information Administration estimates 79 percent of Missouriâ??s power came from coal in 2012. Nuclear power was the second most-common source, at 11 percent.

Still, Columbia residents said they supported the proposed rule change. Alex Prentice said he supported any effort to increase the use of renewable energy.

â??I think the technology exists to reach those numbers, we just need a little bit more push, such as from the EPA, to try and get companies to buy into it,â?? he said.

Jacob Sparks, an MU math and physics major, said he thought energy companies should invest in nuclear power, noting radiation doses for people living near reactors are extremely low. He said cleaner energy sources are worth the cost no matter what.

â??It doesnâ??t matter how much we have to pay for it. We live here,â?? he said.

Kacprowicz said the quickest way to reach the EPAâ??s reduction goals is for people to use less energy themselves, thereby reducing the amount power plants have to generate.