Friday, July 13, 2001

Cinergy puts off N.Ky. plant

Opponents hope this means it won't be built

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ERLANGER — Construction of a controversial peaking station planned for a Cinergy-owned site here will be delayed at least six months, as the utility evaluates its options.

        Cinergy Capital & Trading Inc., an affiliate of Cinergy Corp., said Thursday's announcement was in keeping with the spirit of Gov. Paul Patton's recent moratorium on issuing permits for new power plants, even though the Erlanger plant received an air quality permit about a month before the moratorium.

        The utility's voluntary construction delay means the two-unit, 86-megawatt peaking plant will not become operational next summer, as originally planned, Cinergy officials said. Its new in-service date is “yet to be determined.”

        “That's a step in the right direction,” said State Rep. Jon Draud, R-Crestview Hills, an opponent who recently filed legislation that would enable local governmental agencies to have a say in power plant construction projects. “I would hope in the final analysis that they don't build the (Erlanger) plant.”

        Eight municipalities have formally opposed the plant, which would be 600 feet from the Baptist Village assisted living complex for senior citizens and 600 feet from the new Erlanger library branch, the busiest public library branch in Kentucky.

        Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier, whose city is among the municipalities opposing the power plant, said: “This is the next best thing to stopping it. It gives everybody time to really look at all of the issues.”

        Michael J. Cyrus, chief executive of Cinergy's energy merchant business unit and president of Cinergy Capital & Trading, said: “...We will use the (six months) to continue our evaluation of the need for the plant, its location, community reaction and economic factors.”

        Cinergy spokesman Steve Brash said a Kentucky legislative panel's endorsement Tuesday of tougher restrictions on air pollution from new power plants was not a factor in Cinergy's decision to delay construction of the Erlanger plant.

        An appeal seeking to revoke Cinergy's permit was filed six weeks ago, and that appeal will be heard in Frankfort next Tuesday. While Cinergy has agreed not to seek a building permit or start construction on the mini power plant at 3000 Erlanger-Crescent Springs Road for at least six months, it does plan to “actively defend” the cities' appeal of the air quality permit, Mr. Brash said.

        Cinergy's lawyers also have advised the utility that it does not have to provide a site development plan for the Erlanger plant to area planners, as opponents have claimed, because the utility is exempted by state law.

        Covington lawyer Phil Taliaferro, who is representing plant opponents in Erlanger and Crestview Hills, said he was disap- pointed that Cinergy planned to fight the appeal of the air quality permit.

        He said Cinergy promised city officials of Erlanger and Crestview Hills that it would not proceed with the plant should there be opposition — a claim that Cinergy has repeatedly denied.

        “There is tremendous, widespread and intense opposition, and we pray that Cinergy will honor its commitment and not build that plant at any time,” Mr. Taliaferro said.

        Electricity generated by the Erlanger plant could be used in Northern Kentucky during periods of peak demand, but the excess also could be sold elsewhere on the power grid, or the region where Cinergy can sell its power to other utility companies, Cinergy officials have said.

        That region includes Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia and parts of Pennsylvania.


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