When voting, remember 2008 coal decision


To the editor:

This November, Oberlin voters get to select seven city council members from a field of 14 candidates. Six of the current council people are running again.

Three of the incumbents were sitting on council during the tumultuous months in 2007 and early 2008 when Oberlin debated joining other cities to build a coal fired electrical power station. Oberlin is a member of American Municipal Power and AMP was attempting to build a 1,000 megawatt coal burner in Southeast Ohio. Dozens of cities signed up to purchase megawatts of electricity from the new coal plant.

Concerned citizens went to city council asking for an investigation into projected cost overruns with the contractor, Bechtel. Many strenuously debated council meetings took place. Much was said at the time that Oberlin was hobbling itself to the potential of having very expensive electricity from unreliable sources.

A few years later we have one of the greenest energy generation portfolios in the nation. We are nationally recognized for innovative electrical generation. Oberlin profitably trades Renewable Energy Credits as a bonus income stream. We were saved from hundreds of thousands of dollars from stranded costs that more than 80 other municipalities must pay to the contractors.

The conventional wisdom at the time said buy the coal plant. City manager Eric Norenburg recommended buying into the coal plant. The senior members of that council — Ron Rimbert, Scott Broadwell and Sharon Soucy — voted to join AMP Ohio and buy the coal burner.

Thankfully, four members voted no to the plant. Had one more member of council voted for the plant Oberlin would still be paying to cover the stranded costs. Hundreds of thousands of Oberlin dollars were saved and stayed in the city with rate payers.

I hope voters remember this critical 2008 vote when they consider their council choices this election season.

Scott Medwid