Group: Cleaner energy needed

Members of the Sierra Club asked the City-Parish Council Tuesday to reconsider its reliance on coal as an energy source prior to the council’s approval of the sale of $65.1 million in bonds to pay for its share of upgrades to the Rodemacher power plant in Boyce.

The club members encouraged the city to explore alternative sources, such as natural gas and wind energy.

“This is a progressive community…and the decision to invest millions of dollars in another generation of burning coal in an era of climate change … This is a black eye to this community,” said Griff Blakewood, an assistant professor in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s renewable resources department.

The city’s young people will face the consequences of the city’s reliance on coal energy, Lafayette High senior and Sierra Club member Brandon Dale said.

The upgrades to the Rodemacher power plant are needed to comply with new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air pollution mandates. Lafayette shares ownership of the coal-fired power plant with Cleco Power LLC and the Louisiana Energy and Power Authority, which will share in the cost of the required improvements.

The city’s share of the upgrades to the power plant is about $74 million.

The purchase price of the bond sale is $75.4 million, Jerry Osborne, the city-parish council’s bond attorney, said following the meeting. The council is selling $65.1 million in bonds and receiving a $10.3 million premium from the sale, he said.

The bonds will be repaid over 20 years from an estimated 2 percent increase to customers’ fuel adjustment charge.

Sierra Club member Martial Broussard asked the council to table the decision, which was a request club members made in October, before council members approved moving ahead with the upgrade.

“Stop what you’re doing and consider the consequences,” Broussard said.

The city has natural gas power plants within the city limits, but receives about 62 percent of its power from transmission lines that run from Boyce, Lafayette Utilities System director Terry Huval has said.

Also, during the meeting, Councilman Brandon Shelvin said it’s time to consider new sources of revenue, such as a new city sales tax, to continue to fund the level of services for residents.

A new one-cent sales tax could generate about $35 million based on last year’s collections of the two existing one-cent sales taxes collected in the city, said Dee Stanley, city-parish chief administrative officer.

Shelvin said he has no plans to put a one-cent sales tax on the ballot “any time soon,” but requested information about a possible one-cent sales tax increase to begin a dialogue about new revenue sources.

“Looking forward — we’re going to have some decisions to make (as) a council that will have lasting effects on Lafayette as a whole,” Shelvin said. “We need to find some ways to generate more revenue.”

Voters are also facing a potential increase in their property taxes, depending on the outcome of an issued placed on the April 6 ballot.

Last month, the council voted to place a measure on the spring ballot that wouldo replace an existing 1.92-mill tax with a 7-mill tax.