Saturday, August 12, 2000

Power company aiming to build plant in Indiana

EnviroPower plans to fuel facility with coal waste, newly minted coal

By Kimberly Hefling
The Associated Press

        A Kentucky company has applied for a permit to build a power plant in Pike County, Ind., that would be partially fueled by coal waste.

        The 500-megawatt facility outside Petersburg, Ind., would burn “gob,” or coal waste, supplemented with newly mined coal, according to the permit application filed Aug. 3 by Lexington-based EnviroPower's subsidiary EnviroPower of Indiana.

        Construction on the $600 million facility is expected to begin next spring.

        Coal waste is what is left after coal goes through the washing process. Millions of tons exist in Indiana and Kentucky — concentrated in areas containing large mining operations. The piles can set fire, sometimes burning for long periods of time.

        Another one of EnviroPower's subsidiaries, Kentucky Mountain Power, announced plans in April to build a similar plant outside of Hazard, Ky., in an attempt to take advantage of deregulation in the energy industry that allows the open-market sale of power.

        EnviroPower, which was formed last year, is expected by the end of the year to apply for permits to open three additional power plants east of the Mississippi River, said James Morris, executive vice president of EnviroPower, in a phone interview.

        Like the power plant in eastern Kentucky, the Petersburg facility would use a technology called circulating fluidized bed, which company officials say can burn low-grade fuels, but also meet federal and state air-quality guidelines.

        Pike County, population 12,500, is a rural county traditionally dependent on the coal industry. It has two coal-fired power plants built in the 1960s.

        Alycia Church, executive director of the county's Chamber of Commerce, said company officials say 200 to 300 jobs would be created if the plant is built, but the chamber has not taken an official stance on the issue because very little information has been released about it.

        It would, however, be nice to clean up the county's coal waste, if possible, Ms. Church said.

        “The county's full of it when you consider that coal mining's been our history for over 100 years, and that all this gob and slurry, it leaches into the groundwater and so forth,” Ms. Church said. “If this new plant that's proposing to come here uses the technology, it would be a way to help the environment by cleaning this stuff up.”

        John Blair, president of the environmental group Valley Watch, said the proposal is too good to be true.

        “You know, nuclear power sounds good on paper ... synthetic fuels sound good on paper,” Mr. Blair said. “Any time you have public relations people producing documents for the paper the flacks can make anything sound good.”

        Mr. Blair said he would like to see more research done on what exactly the plant would be emitting.

        “I think it's going to create a huge waste stream,” Mr. Blair said. “Whether it goes into the stream or the air is the big question.”

        But Mr. Morris said the coal-waste burning technology has been successfully used in states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland.

        “It makes an environmentally small footprint,” Mr. Morris said.


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