Power plant\'s move away from coal likely won\'t affect jobs

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Municipal Power Plant will stop burning coal in mid-October, for the first time in the plant's 101 year history. 

The move comes after changes to environmental regulations that control the amount of pollutants the city can release from the plant and how coal ash is handled. Columbia Water and Light Power Production Superintendent Christian Johanningmeier said there are some alternatives to burning coal. He said the plant already burns some natural gas, but it is looking into another option as well.

"The other thing we're doing is we're looking at converting the newer, larger solid fuel boiler to burn 100-percent biomass or wood fuel," Johanningmeier said.

He also said the plant has been expecting a requirement to move away from coal for a few years, so it was prepared for the change. The plant's preparations aim to help guard against any job losses.

"We kind of foresaw that we were going to have to change our operations, so we will shuffle some people around accordingly, but there won't be any job losses or layoffs," Johanningmeier said.

The plant produces about six percent of the city's power, but Johanningmeier said he doesn't expect the change to have much of an effect on people's utilities or utility prices. He did say the water and light department hasn't taken much of a look at the effect on utilities, though.

"I'm not sure we've taken a very big look at it," Johanningmeier said. "My initial reaction is it'll be a minimal change to the rate payers."

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