Activists want coal power plant shut down sooner

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Coal power plants: The Sierra Club says they pollute the water, contaminate the air, and threaten our health.

On Monday, members of the group presented Lakeland commissioners with more than 700 petitions to close the McIntosh 3 power plant -- which uses coal -- and go to cleaner, healthier kinds of fuel like natural gas or the sun.

"We're not expecting to switchover right away, but we know this has to be a priority," said Tim Heberlein.

The federal government is mandating that cities stop using coal by 2030.

"If there is a way to shut it down and it doesn't cause on harm to the utility, then we'll take that route," said Lakeland Electric spokeswoman Cindy Clemmons. "But right now, we're sticking with the 2030 [plan]."

Clemmons says if the plant were shut down before it's paid for, electric bills would skyrocket.

"It's not a matter of the money, it's what coal is doing," countered Frank Mazuca, a Sierra Club member. "It's a matter of what coal is doing."

The Sierra Club plans to continue to collect signatures and hold a town hall meeting on the issues next month.