Hooray for Westerville

Downtown Westerville

As I've talked about here before, NRDC's Midwest Office is fighting a proposal by the American Municipal Power company to build a 1,000 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Meigs County, Ohio.  Before AMP can move forward with its plant, however, it must first secure 50-year purchase agreements from cities and towns across the state.  Recently, some of those towns showed signs of beginning to doubt the wisdom of committing to buy power for the next half century from a plant that hasn't even been built yet--and may never been built.

A few weeks ago, Yellow Springs, Ohio, decided to put off making a final decision on purchasing power from the plant (cities have until March 1, 2008, to join up, although AMP has been pushing local governments to commit now).  And last night, in a lopsided 5 -1 vote, the City of Westerville, Ohio, became the first town to forgo buying power from AMP's new plant entirely. 

I was at the City Council meeting, and the care and thoughtfulness that the Council Members displayed was heartening.  City Council Member Craig Treneff quickly identified the key issue for many local communities--the profound fiscal and environmental risks that the AMP contract poses.  "I can't take a 50-year risk, not being able to predict that far ahead" he said. 

Hopefully, Westerville's decision will prompt cities like Yellow Springs and Oberlin to think twice.  The big question, though, is what will Cleveland do?  While towns like Westerville and Yellows Springs are set to buy a significant, but relatively modest, amount of power (25 megawatts was proposed in the case of Westerville) the City of Cleveland is considering signing up with AMP for 100 megawatts of energy.  If Cleveland were to decide to pursue cleaner, alternative, forms of energy instead, the future of the AMP plant would be very much in doubt.  Tonight, the City Council's Public Utilities Committee will hold it's first public hearing on the proposal.  With the Committee's chair already publicly stating that he supports the AMP contract, it's going to be an uphill battle, but NRDC will be there.