Dump Drake, enviros say

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Debate over the Martin Drake Power Plant in downtown Colorado Springs just keeps going and going and going.

Colorado Springs Utilities Drake
  • Drake: Demands keep coming to shut it down.

Or at least the pleas for debate over Drake keep going.

Yesterday, at the Colorado Springs Utilities Board meeting, the topic again came up. Several citizens called for City Council, which acts as the Utilities Board, to reverse its recent decisions to keep Drake churning and to add Dave Neumann's emissions-control equipment to meet EPA standards for certain toxic byproducts of the coal-to-energy process.

The Sierra Club also joins those calling for retirement of Drake, which provides a significant amount of the city's power needs.

The Sierra Club, you might recall, used more than $20 million provided by Chesapeake Energy, a natural gas producer, to fund its anti-coal campaign, and more recently has turned against natural gas in like manner.

The Sierra Club also labels Neumann's technology "highly questionable" but offers no scientific study to show that it is, in fact, questionable.

For his part, Neumann can offer multiple substantiations that his technology works on a load up to 20 megawatts. And, he notes, there's no reason to doubt it will work on greater loads, because his technology is added incrementally, meaning that five 20-megawatt units would be applied to a 100-megawatt plan. That's a simplistic way of looking at it, but it's the basic outline of why Neumann knows his technology works.

In any event, the Sierra Club has jumped on the "Dump Drake" bandwagon, proving the old adage true that politics make strange bedfellows, since now one of the most liberal clubs in the land is aligned with Mayor Steve Bach, who prides himself on staunch conservatism.

Colorado Springs Utilities Drake
  • Bach: Making room for the liberals.

From the Sierra Club's news release:

The Sierra Club is urging Colorado Springs Utilities to push for a decommissioning study before committing to spend $120 million on extending the life of the already outdated Martin Drake coal plant with the installation of NeuStream™ technology. In recent months, the CSU Board had been resisting the questionable NeuStream™ technology, voting to slow down its installation at Martin Drake while it explored pursuing an independent, 3-pronged comprehensive study involving a technical review, an economic analysis, and a community input process on options for retiring the coal plant.

“By voting to move forward on a decommissioning study, the Colorado Springs Utilities Board will put Colorado Springs on an informed path to make the best decision for our community, but instead they chose the opposite,” said Bryce Carter of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Colorado. “The bottom line is that transitioning Martin Drake away from coal could create local jobs through demand-side management programs and increased installation of solar and other distributed energy technologies, protect our community’s health, and save customers of CSU hundreds of millions of dollars over the years by avoiding costly upgrades and increasing fuel costs.”

The momentum for a fair investigation into the decommissioning of Martin Drake drastically reversed last month when the CSU Board voted to push the study into 2013 and instead clear the way for the installation of NeuStream™ technology on the plant. If this risky technology is installed, and assuming the still-experimental technology even works, the community will be stuck with higher energy costs and the negative health impacts on local families as a consequence of continuing to operate a coal-fired power plant in the heart of our region for decades to come.

On average, Martin Drake emits 3,415 tons of nitrogen oxides, 6,035 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 11 pounds of mercury per year. This pollution can lead to short term and chronic respiratory diseases including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and can exacerbate the effects of heart disease, which can lead to increase hospital visits and premature death. Based on a risk-based analysis of Martin Drake‘s emissions, an estimated $65 million of public health impacts burdened families in 2010.

Coal prices in the U.S. have been steadily rising for the past 10 years and over the last two years have seen a cost increase of 6%. As U.S. coal exports are being pushed ahead, the international coal market closely resembles that of oil for its potential sharp price increases and volatility with the two top producers accounting for more than 50% of the market share. This will likely result in a future increase of ratepayer costs as American coal, like oil, is influenced by the constantly growing demand in the international market.

Studies have shown that neighborhoods within 2 miles of power plants experience up to a 7% decrease in housing and rent value. Based on this, downtown Colorado Springs could see $72 million or more of an increase in its market value with a decommissioning of Martin Drake.

Meantime, Neumann is trying to help the community by setting up a foundation to help school kids. Here's his news release:

Dr. David Neumann, CEO of Neumann Systems Group, announced the establishment of the Neumann Education Foundation (NEF), dedicated to revolutionizing the teaching and learning process in elementary schools with iPads and applications technology.

“In a pilot project at Bear Creek Elementary (District 38), we have shown that first-grade students who use iPads in the classroom with appropriate applications software are more fully engaged in the learning process, have instruction geared to their individual learning level, receive immediate feedback on their progress, and wind up with a sense of accomplishment when the process is complete,” said Dr. Neumann, founder of the NEF. “We believe we are on the leading edge of a revolution in education that accelerates learning. This technology, when inserted into the classroom properly, provides an incredible force multiplier for teachers, reducing classroom administration tasks and allowing teachers to teach more.”

Bear Creek teacher Jennifer Hunt said, “The iPad project created an excitement for learning by my first graders that is unsurpassed in my years of teaching. The students are fully engaged and learning more.”

NEF’s five-year goal is to provide access to iPads or comparable technology with appropriate level applications software to every elementary school classroom and every elementary-age child and their teacher in El Paso County. In addition to providing hardware and software, the Neumann Education Foundation will fund instructional programs, teacher training, scholarships, and technology upgrades via direct contributions and grants. Local universities have indicated willingness to mentor the project.

NEF will work in partnership with the Colorado Springs business and education communities to make El Paso County schools a world class model for utilizing technology in the classroom. “We expect that this program will have multiple benefits for the community: accelerated learning for students; a force multiplier for teachers; and a major business attractor for high tech workers who are specifically motivated to move based on the quality of life including education for their children. This project has already demonstrated how it builds community.”

“NEF believes that for the next generation of Colorado Springs citizens to succeed in our world they must be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and be given access to the most advanced instructional applications available,” said Neumann. “The foundation will make available to all elementary school students and teachers state-of-the-art instructional technology at a time of rapid advancement in instructional technology. By making this a community-wide project, involving businesses, K-12, higher education and all people living in El Paso County, we will transform education in the city and county.”

“Education funding is not keeping up with technology advances. We believe the investments made by the Neumann Education Foundation and others will give all of our elementary schools and teachers a head start to providing a long-term, life enriching education.” Dr. David Neumann, Founder, Neumann Education Foundation.

Foundation CEO and President Mr. Patrick Davis is working to form a Board of Directors for NEF and is interested in discussing partnerships with local businesses and community leaders. He can be reached at 719-536-9809 or patrickd@neueducation.org.

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