The Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors today voted to close the Fort Calhoun Station by the end of 2016. That decision will impact about 700 current employees at the facility north of Blair that battled flood and fire to keep the facility running. OPPD spokesperson Mike Jones says the decision was not a reflection on their performance.
Jones says, “The board made very clear that this was not a case of performance. Not a case of unhappiness with employees that went the extra mile to keep the plant going. This was a financial decision.”
The district is examining the staffing requirements needed to move properly and safely through the process. OPPD will work with station employees during the transition. Administrators say they will make every effort to absorb as many employees as possible into other areas of OPPD and will retrain employees where we have opportunities for success. They will also work with the Nebraska Department of Labor, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and other agencies in the re-employment process. There are about 700 employees at the plant.
A news release from OPPD stated that market conditions are a major factor in today’s decision by the board. Historically low natural gas prices are a contributing factor. They reduce OPPD’s cost to generate electricity using natural gas. In addition, consumers are using less energy.
The decision means no general rate increase is anticipated for the next five years, through 2021, furthering the district’s goal of pursuing rates that are 20-percent below the national average.
Jones says the decommissioning process will start almost immediately and could take several years to complete.