NRG’s Coal-Powered Business Model Holds Back
Local Clean Energy Vision
PHILADELPHIA - As NRG Energy shareholders prepared to meet on May 7, 2015 for the power company’s annual meeting, residents representing four of the communities where NRG operates its coal-fired power plants called on the company to be a local partner in the shift away from coal to clean, renewable energy. Many of the residents are NRG shareholders and will be attending the company’s meeting in Philadelphia.
While NRG aims to reduce carbon emissions 90 percent by the year 2050, that goal puts communities that have dealt with coal pollution for decades on the hook for more pollution and years of uncertainty. NRG has a strong track record for clean energy investments in select communities, but residents are hoping to show shareholders that the majority of NRG’s business is anchored in the company’s coal fleet.
The Waukegan coal plant in Illinois, which NRG acquired in 2014, has operated on the shores of Lake Michigan for almost 60 years. Community members have called for a clear timeline on phasing out coal at the power plant for many years, but NRG has yet to commit, leaving open questions for local community leaders hoping to revitalize the city.
"I believe that through a partnership with Waukegan, NRG has the opportunity to invest in the clean energy future we all want, and that NRG can help us change the landscape of Waukegan," Waukegan City Council Member David Villalobos, who lives near NRG’s Waukegan Coal Plant. "I'm here in Philadelphia this week to address NRG's Board of Directors to tell them that a transparent transition from coal to clean energy can help Waukegan plan and grow."
Residents from Tonawanda, NY have a similar call for a 'just transition' away from fossil fuels at NRG’s Huntley coal-fired plant near Buffalo.
“Renewable energy and energy efficiency provide tremendous opportunities for jobs, local economic development and cleaner air,” said Diana Strablow, a retired teacher from Tonawanda, NY near NRG’s Huntley Coal Plant. “I plan to ask NRG for a plan to ensure that the vision is ‘clean, renewable energy for all,’ and not ‘clean, renewable energy for some.’
Many residents will share their experiences with pollution from NRG’s coal fleet. NRG’s Cheswick coal plant near Pittsburgh, PA is one of the single largest sources of air pollution in Allegheny County.
“We are urging NRG to be a good neighbor in our community by installing and operating the best technology available while it continues to burn coal here” said Barb Szalai, a community member from Springdale, PA who lives near NRG’s Cheswick Coal Plant. “If NRG cannot do its part to clean up its pollution, we urge the company to be a partner in our community’s transition away from coal.”
The city of Baltimore, MD experiences exceptionally high levels of pollution. Earlier this year, After more than fifteen months of intensive engagement with industry and the public health community, Maryland's Department of the Environment finalized new protections against air pollution from the state’s coal-fired power plants. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan frustrated Maryland citizens when he dropped these vital safeguards the day he took office, an outcome that NRG lobbied for.
“Every community deserves clean air, and we’re calling on NRG to be a partner in our efforts to clean up our air in Baltimore. NRG knows that the giant centralized utility model is one of the past,” said Talya Tavor, a community member and local organizer from Baltimore, MD who lives near NRG’s Dickerson and Chalk Point Coal Plants. “We're living in an era where people value energy freedom and customer choice. That freedom and choice should extend to ALL communities; not just some.”
Press Release Contact: Emily Rosenwasser, Emily.Rosenwasser@sierraclub.