Saturday, February 23, 2002

Proposed power plant sparks heat




By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ERLANGER — A Democrat running for Kenton County Fiscal Court wants to make a proposed suburban power plant an issue in a county commission race.

        However, the issue of the peaking plant proposed by Cinergy may be moot because the Cincinnati energy company now says it is “highly unlikely” the plant will ever be built.

        Democrat Mike Baker claims Republican Commissioner Adam Koenig and the rest of the fiscal court should have been more aggressive in working against plans for the mini-power plant — also known as a merchant or peaking plant — Cinergy has proposed building along Erlanger-Crescent Springs Road.

        Several cities, including Erlanger and Crestview Hills, and dozens of Kenton County residents have worked against construction of the plant because of concerns over pollution and noise.

        “The fiscal court's failure to protect the residents of Kenton County is disgraceful,” Mr. Baker said. “Adam Koenig ... is missing in action on the issue.

        “Koenig's lack of leadership on this major issue is disturbing,” he said.

        Mr. Baker is the only Democrat running for Mr. Koenig's seat. The incumbent is being challenged in the May GOP primary by Fort Mitchell City Councilman Michael Plummer.

        Mr. Koenig said the fiscal court has passed a resolution asking the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission to hold a public hearing on the issue when Cinergy moves forward with its final plans.

        “My would-be opponent's unwarranted attack shows a lack of research on the leadership shown by myself and the rest of the Kenton County Fiscal Court,” Mr. Koenig said.

        “We have facilitated the opportunity for citizens to be heard on the matter,” he said. “The citizens of Kenton County deserve better than inaccurate, negative attacks.”

        But Mr. Baker said Mr. Koenig and the court should have done more, including getting actively involved in fighting the issue.

        “When seven communities come out and oppose the proposed plant and the Kenton Fiscal Court sits on its hands, you've got to question their leadership, particularly Koenig,” Mr. Baker said.

        Mr. Koenig said he has raised questions over the need for the plant at the site in Erlanger, which is less than 1,000 feet from a retirement community, a library under construction and residential neighborhoods.

        However, Cinergy now appears to be backing away from the site, according to Keith Black, Cinergy's General Manager of State Government Affairs and a Frankfort lobbyist for the utility.

        “It is now highly unlikely that any type of electric generating plant will ever be built at the Erlanger site,” said Mr. Black, whose wife, Barb, is a Kenton County Commissioner.

        “Cinergy's interest in this site has indeed diminished due to local opposition, changing market conditions, regulatory hurdles and government concerns,” he said Tuesday.

        On Monday, Gov. Paul Patton appeared in Erlanger to back legislation filed by Rep. Jon Draud, R-Crestview Hills, that would prevent construction of the plant at the Erlanger site.

        The bill would essentially kill plans for the Cinergy plant because it requires that plants be built at least 3,000 feet from homes, historic buildings, schools, hospitals or nursing homes.

        The bill is being considered by the Kentucky General Assembly.

       



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