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City Water, Light and Power Budget Assumes Coal Plant Closures

Three smoke stacks from Springfield's City Water, Light and Power sit on the lake.
Daisy Contreras
NPR Illinois

Springfield utility officials presented their budget to aldermen Thursday. Utility leaders said the spending plan would change little if the city decides to shutter much of its coal plant.

City Water, Light and Power’s $293-million budget for the upcoming year takes into account costs and savings associated with closing two generators by December, and a third in the next few years.

If city officials decide they want to keep any of the generators running, chief utility engineer Doug Brown said the city and ratepayers would have to spend millions more dollars.

“With the cost of those units, how much they are and the other infrastructure that would need to be done with them to keep them, again we’d probably look at a rate increase in the future, not a decrease,” he said.

To keep Dallman Unit 33, for example, Brown said the utility would immediately have to ask for $1 million to do a design study of converting the generator’s coal ash waste from wet to dry to meet environmental rules that go into effect in 2021. The total project could cost in the tens of millions.

Brown said the number of employees would stay about the same for the upcoming year, even with the plant closures.

The conversation Thursday was a preview of two meetings next week, when city officials and the public will discuss a resolution to shutter the two oldest coal generators by December, and the third by 2022. The city council meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday for its regular Committee of the Whole meeting, and a public hearing on plant closure is scheduled is for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Mayor Jim Langfelder said the discussion would focus on the fate of Dallman Unit 33, as he said there is consensus that the oldest units, Dallman 31 and 32, should close.

“What we're trying to do is give as much information as possible,” Langfelder said. “But in reality, this is a city of Springfield decision. This is probably most important decision this council will face.”

Aldermen could vote on the resolution as early as February 4.

Water Budget Updates

CWLP’s spending plan also includes money to design a new water distribution complex. The current complex, at Mason and 11th streets, has to be moved to make room for the expansion of the 10th Street railroad tracks.

Brown said that could mean residents will pay more for water come 2021.

“We don't have the cash in the water fund to be able to fund the relocation of that structure,” he said. “Selling property that the water fund owns could fund a portion of that, but a rate increase is a possibility in order to move it in the timeframe that we need.”

The design costs around $1 million, while construction costs are estimated at $6 million to $8 million.

Water rates would stay the same for this fiscal year, which begins in March.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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