Duke Energy's W.C. Beckjord coal-fired power plant (Photo courtesy of Brett Ciccotelli, OCA)

Last Friday, Duke Energy announced its plans to close the W.C. Beckjord Power Station by January 1, 2015, citing upcoming EPA regulations, including the Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule (MACT).  This 60-year-old, unscrubbed plant is located about 20 miles east of Cincinnati and has been emitting 69,156 tons of sulfur dioxide, 4,556 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 4,289,107 tons of carbon dioxide each year in addition to mercury and other hazardous air pollutants.

While I’m encouraged by Duke’s recognition of the “regulatory writing on the wall,” Duke needs to take seriously the health of Cincinnatians and accelerate the retirement of this plant

In Duke's statement about closing Beckjord, the company only cites the cost “to which their customers will be exposed” from installing pollution control, rather than the toxic emissions to which they are exposed to daily. 

According to the Clean Air Task Force, every year that the Beckjord coal plant operates, it causes 140 deaths, 220 heart attacks, over 2,000 asthma attacks and a host of hospital and emergency room admissions. Waiting until 2015 to close this plant is simply not soon enough, especially when Duke has heard from its customers that human lives are more important than profits.

Over the last three months, our coalition partner Ohio Citizen Action has mailed 2,037 personal letters to Jim Rogers, Duke Energy CEO, urging him to close the Beckjord power plant, including cute but deadly serious drawings by children.  

“Duke’s customers have sent the company a clear message that they want it to move away from its reliance on dirty coal plants,”said Rachael Belz, Coal Program Organizer at Ohio Citizen Action.

I agree.  Instead of taking a proactive approach and closing Beckjord immediately, Duke Energy is waiting until the absolute last minute before they have to comply with the new EPA rules. By delaying closure of the Beckjord coal-fired power plant, Duke Energy is making a clear statement that their profits are more important than the health of the citizens of Cincinnati.

Greenpeace will continue to keep the pressure on Duke Energy about Beckjord as well as the nearby Miami Fort Station, located about 16 miles west of Cincinnati. The Miami Fort coal plant shares many of the same characteristics as the Beckjord Station in that it is old, polluting, and will soon become prohibitively expensive to run.

Cincinnatians deserve clean air and they deserve it now.