Sunday, November 19, 2000

Park protests possible pollution

Officials fear power plant would make Smokies smokier

The Associated Press

        HINDMAN, Ky. — Representatives of Great Smoky Mountains National Park worry that air pollution from a proposed power plant in Kentucky will increase the haze that's already reducing visibility there.

        Environmental groups in Kentucky also have raised concerns that air pollution from such a plant would pose health risks to people and wildlife in the Appalachian Mountains and beyond.

        But local residents say such fears need to be laid aside in the interest of jobs in the impoverished Appalachian region.

        More than 100 people crowded into a room at the Hindman Hu man Services Center for a public hearing Thursday night to show their support for a proposal by Kentucky Mountain Power to build a $600 million power plant outside Hindman.

        Information gathered at that hearing will be used by the Kentucky Division of Air Quality to decide whether to allow the company to begin construction on a 500-megawatt plant in Knott County that would burn waste coal that has been dumped in giant heaps across Appalachia.

        The firm's parent company, EnviroPower of Lexington, has heralded the proposal as a means to clean up some 500 million tons of that waste.

        “This is a great opportunity for the mountains,” said Hazard Mayor William Gorman.

        “We know that we need the jobs,” said Knott County Judge-Executive Donnie Newsome.

        But Jim Renfro, an air quality specialist for the Great Smoky Mountains, said the proposal should be looked at carefully for environmental harm,especially in the national park about 100 miles to the south.

        “We've reached the wall,” he said. “We can't tolerate any more increases in air pollutants.”

        Bob Miller, a spokesman for the park, said the proposal turns the coal waste from ground to air pollution that could do more harm to the environment.

        Smog generated by the plant, coupled with acid rain, could aggravate the effects air pollution already is having in the park, Mr. Miller said.

        “It's going to have a discernable impact on visibility,” he said. “Visibility has declined by 40 percent in winter and 80 percent in summer since 1948. Our bluish mist is yellow or brown. It's air pollution.”

        Knott County Judge-executive Donnie Newsome said he thinks concerns about air pollution are being exaggerated.

        “It will help the environment by cleaning up all the waste material in the mountains,” he said. “It looks good to me, and we need the jobs.”

        John Tate, vice president of EnviroPower, said 50 to 70 people will operate the plant.

        The proposed plant site, owned by mining giant Addington Enterprises, is at the convergence of Knott, Perry and Breathitt counties in southeastern Kentucky.


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