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NiSource aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent by 2030

NIPSCO's coal-fired Michigan City Generating Station stands near the Washington Park marina on the Lake Michigan shoreline. NiSource plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation by 90 percent by 2030, as compared by 2005, including by taking its coal-fired plants offline.

NiSource plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation by 90 percent by 2030, as compared to 2005, as it takes coal-fired plants offline in favor of greener energy sources.

The Merrillville-based parent company of NIPSCO unveiled new emission reduction targets in its 2018 Integrated Annual Report that it says builds upon "the aggressive environmental targets the company announced in 2016."

"NiSource has long been committed to improving the environmental performance of our energy systems and making it more affordable for our customers," NiSource President and CEO Joe Hamrock said. "The updated targets we're highlighting in our 2018 Integrated Annual Report demonstrate our continued progress doing just that. We'll continue to make our business more sustainable for our customers, the communities we serve, our employees and our investors."

By 2030, NiSource aims to reduce nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions by 99% as compared to 2005 levels. The utility hopes to reduce water withdrawal by 99%, wastewater discharge by 99% and coal ash generation by 100%.

In its earlier, previously announced 2016 targets, NiSource laid out target reductions of between 50% and 90% in those areas.

After being pressured by environmental groups like the Sierra Club to reduce its carbon footprint, the company now aims to retire all its coal-fired power plants by 2028. Instead, NIPSCO will generate power with wind, solar and battery storage technology.

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NiSource said replacing coal-fired electricity generation with cleaner renewable sources of power is "is projected to result in more than $4 billion in long-term customer cost savings."

The utility said its ongoing pipeline modernization programs also will help reduce methane emissions from its natural gas main and service lines by 50 percent, as compared to 2005 levels. The company replaced 43.5 miles of natural gas pipeline and installed equipment, appliances, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in what Hamrock described as " the largest natural gas restoration project in our company’s history."

The sustainability report also lays out NiSource's recovery efforts after the deadly natural gas explosions in Merrimack Valley in Massachusetts last year, as well as its investments in safety, website updates, and $23 million in philanthropic contributions to the communities it serves, including Northwest Indiana. It also lays out how NiSource employees volunteered for nearly 12,000 hours last year and how nearly 800,000 Columbia Gas and NIPSCO customers saved $23 million last year through energy-efficiency programs such as rebates or discounts on home energy audits, high-efficiency appliances and HVAC equipment, weatherization projects and smart thermostats.

The utility bragged that NIPSCO's estimated time of restoration during outages was 87% accurate last year, up from 80% the previous year.

"This report shares how our dedicated NiSource team continues to invest in safety upgrades and infrastructure enhancements, deliver on our customer, community and environmental commitments, build a strong culture, and seek to ensure we develop and retain our workforce for the future," Hamrock said. "NiSource is well positioned to deliver long-term value to all stakeholders."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.