By Brian Sewell
On Sept. 18, city commissioners in Gainesville, Fla., voted 5-2 for a policy that could end the local power plant’s purchases of Appalachian coal mined by mountaintop removal, and they unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the destructive practice. The move makes Gainesville the first city with a municipal utility to adopt such a policy.
Under the policy, Gainesville Regional Utilities will pay up to 5 percent more to buy coal mined underground. If the cost difference becomes greater than 5 percent, the commission can vote to temporarily suspend the policy. The utilitys general manager can also make emergency purchases of coal mined through any method if the inventory drops to critically low levels.
Representatives of the utility told commissioners that avoiding mountaintop removal coal could raise costs on customers. But since 2008, the amount of coal the utility purchases from mountaintop removal mines has decreased substantially, and the utility could not specify how they expect the change to impact rates.
The vote was the culmination of a campaign by Gainesville Loves Mountains, a group of local volunteers who began reaching out to the city commission on the issue in 2011.