Emery Generating Station in Clear Lake, Iowa, has been recognized as one of the best power plants in the nation and it’s due in part to the work of its employees, many of whom are members of Cedar Rapids Local 204. 

Members of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Local 204 perform repairs in the motor control center at the Emery generating plant, including Mike Borrelli, left, Jim Smith, Mike Heaford and Mick Merrill.

The Alliant Energy-owned plant earned a spot in a list of the top 20 combined cycle gas-fired power plants for heat rates, a measure of the plant’s efficiency. The list is published annually in Power Engineering magazine.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment,” said Kathy Lubbert, Local 204 member and materials coordinator. “And it’s because of the culture here.”

Local 204’s 16 members work as control room operators, assistant operators, maintenance technicians, electricians, warehouse procurement materials coordinators and do instrument control. Emery operates two gas turbines and a steam turbine.

“Everyone here is striving for the same thing,” said Local 204 steward Mick Merrill, a maintenance technician. “Every megawatt matters.”

Lubbert and Merrill say there is a sense of ownership among the members, which contributes to the plant’s efficiency. Decisions come from management, but everyone has a voice and is encouraged to offer input, they said.

“We don’t look at it as ‘us’ and ‘them,’ it’s ‘we,’” said Plant Manager Craig Crawford. “Everyone shares ideas – good or bad – and everyone gives and accepts feedback.” 

Safety at the plant is equally important; it’s been 13 years without a loss time accident.

“To go as long as they have [without an accident] is quite an accomplishment,” said Local 204 Business Manager David George. “They take pride in their work, and in doing it right the first time.”

Each day begins with a sit-down meeting among employees, said Lubbert and Merrill. They talk about everything from complacency and fatigue to maintaining balance and traction, whatever is needed to complete their responsibilities. If rigging is needed, for example, they make sure the proper protective equipment is worn.

The same goes for contractors, who must watch a safety video before conducting any work on site.

“A lot of contractors have said they like coming back for that reason, for the safety record,” Lubbert said.

Communication is paramount, Lubbert and Merrill said, and they aren’t afraid to tell someone when they’re not doing their job safely enough, though always respectfully.

“We’re a small group, we have to take care of each other,” Merrill said.

Considering the danger inherent in the work – working with high-pressure steam at temperatures over 1,000 degrees and multi-ton turbines moving 4 million pounds of air an hour – it remains an impressive record.

“It’s a blessing to have the relationship we do with Local 204,” said Mike Ravera, operation manager. “We wouldn’t have the success we do without it. They’re the experts. I just try to stay out of the way.”

The team at Emery includes: Dallas Lubbock, Abram Frein, Jeff Hawbaker, Ted Baker Jr., Todd Mathers, Steve King, Neal Shaikoski, Mike Heaford, Mike Borrelli, Mick Merrill, Mark Lowe, Kathy Lubbert, Jeff Calland, Hugh Hugi, Gary Johnson and Jim Smith.