Sierra Club files to stop Tampa Electric from converting to gas

Environmental advocacy group Sierra Club is asking the state to prevent Tampa Electric Co. from converting one of its its Big Bend Power Station units to natural gas. Pictured is Big Bend in 2017. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times, 2017]
Environmental advocacy group Sierra Club is asking the state to prevent Tampa Electric Co. from converting one of its its Big Bend Power Station units to natural gas. Pictured is Big Bend in 2017. [LUIS SANTANA | Times, 2017]
Published October 3
Updated October 3

"Our communities have suffered enough from utility companies putting their desire to make a buck over the safety of our communities," said Gonzalo Valdes, organizer for the Sierra Club’s "Beyond Coal" campaign in the state. "Adding fracked gas to Big Bend will continue to endanger our air, water and communities by locking us into at least another 30 years of destructive, polluting, climate-disrupting greenhouse gases."

Among the issues cited by the Sierra Club were property damage, elevated insurance premiums, emotional distress and illness.

Previous coverage: Tampa Electric to shut down Big Bend coal unit that killed 5

Tampa Electric spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said the utility is aware of the filing and declined to comment further.

Tampa Electric announced in May that it was converting coal-fired Unit 1 to natural gas by 2021 and plans to spend nearly $853 million to convert it. When it is complete, the unit will be able to produce 1,090 megawatts. Big Bend has two other units that run on coal and have natural gas capabilities.

A hearing for the certification process for the plant’s renovation is scheduled for January 2019.

The utility is also shutting down the coal-fired Unit 2 at the power station by 2021. Five workers died after performing dangerous maintenance on Unit 2 in June 2017.

Tampa Electric has moved away from energy sources such as coal in recent years, driven especially by recent CEO Nancy Tower, who has a focus on renewable sources. It committed to building 600 megawatts of solar energy — enough to power 100,000 homes — by 2021.

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Contact Malena Carollo at [email protected] or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.

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