When Peabody Energy presented its plan to build a massive new coal plant, it marketed it as a source of reliably cheap power and a wise way to meet growing energy needs in an unstable market. But the prices, which have been spiking well over $100/MWh some months, are a far cry from the $45/MWh that Columbia and other purchasers were promised.
Since coal already costs us so much by causing health problems, climate change, and regular ash and slurry spills, the fact that ratepayers are footing the bill for Peabody's unrealistic project adds insult to injury.
A new petition asks the City of Columbia to hold a hearing about how their contract to buy Prairie State electricity will affect the town, which is projected to lose $56 million in five years paying for power that is far above market prices. The petition calls for an open discussion in which citizens can ask questions and critics and proponents of the plant can both present their views.
Peabody created the "Prairie Energy Campus" as a way to justify mining coal that was too dirty to sell. Because there weren't any private investors who wanted to take a chance on pricey project for an energy source that the country was starting to turn away from, Peabody sought out cities that would sign contracts promising to pay for the plant no matter how much it cost and to raise their utility rates in order to be able to afford it. With some contracting cities doing just that and raising their rates, and others just losing money that could have been spent elsewhere, many of their citizens are asking why they're paying such a high price for an energy source that already makes us pay by destroying our climate and making us sick.
A good place to learn more about the Prairie State Energy Campus is http://prairiestatecoalplant.org/.