Dec. 18, 2012 06:59

There may be a potential snag in the Lafayette Consolidated Government's plan to invest $140 million in the Rodemacher II coal plant.

Rodemacher's ownership is split in three, and while LCG has a majority stake - 50 percent - 30 percent of the plant is owned by Cleco.

According to Casey Roberts, an associate attorney for the Sierra Club, Cleco is currently pushing forward three total coal plant upgrade projects, all of which are pending approval by the Louisiana Public Service Commission. Roberts, in a recent e-mail sent to members of the Sierra Club Acadian Group, writes:

The PSC is going to take evidence on whether Cleco's decision to retrofit these three coal plants is in the best interest of ratepayers. Sierra Club plans to submit evidence about the many regulatory costs of operating a coal plant that are coming in future years, and argue that this just isn't a good investment.

Roberts suggests LCG reconsider investing so much taxpayer money in coal power, especially in light of the possibility Cleco doesn't get PSC approval.

"It seems ... that Lafayette shouldn't approve its part until the PSC has approved Cleco's part, and that Lafayette should look at the evidence submitted in the PSC proceeding to help make its own decision about whether this project is worthwhile," writes Roberts. "If the PSC doesn't approve the project - meaning it will (not) allow Cleco to recover the cost of the project through increased rates - the project probably won't go forward."

A decision on the issue, according to PSC's hearing schedule, wont be made until late May or early June.

Lillian Espinoza, a member of the Sierra Club Acadian Group and Lafayette's League of Women Voters, says the issue will be raised during tonight's City-Parish Council meeting, where locals are expected to call for a halt to LCG's plans for a multi-million investment in coal.

Though the council has already sold $65 million in bonds to help cover the $140 million overhaul, it's not too late to at least consider an alternative approach, Espinoza says.

"The next time our council makes a 20 year decision, they better make sure to give the community a chance to be involved," she says, adding, "this is a journey we're just beginning and it starts tonight."

Tonight's meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.

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