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Rare Move By State Agency Puts Coal Plant Blueprint On Hold

June 17, 2010

LEXINGTON, Ky. - It doesn't happen often, but the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet is withdrawing a wastewater permit for a controversial coal-fired energy plant proposed to be built along the Green River in Henderson County. Three groups had argued that the permit failed to address toxic pollutants from the plant and its slag landfill.

Judy Petersen is executive director of the Kentucky Waterway Alliance, one of the groups involved.

"This move by the Energy and Environment Cabinet is to basically say, 'We've already issued this permit, but we want to take another look. We're gonna revise the permit.' It's pretty rare for them to do that."

The Sierra Club and Valley Watch also took part in the permit challenge.

Wallace McMullen, energy chair of the Cumberland Chapter of the Sierra Club, hopes the decision can be a springboard, of sorts, to a different view on coal in Kentucky.

"Kentucky needs to go to work on making the transition to a clean energy economy, and this big coal-burning factory was a move in the wrong direction."

No matter the ultimate outcome, the cabinet's plan to take a second look at the permit could be a victory in itself, Petersen says.

"Whatever template, basically, the cabinet sets for the limits on the discharges for this permit will presumably carry over if similar facilities are built."

Backers of the Cash Creek project say it would convert coal into a natural gas substitute and provide jobs in the region. Opponents call it speculative, pointing out that no Kentucky utility has stepped up to say the additional energy is needed. They also contend that the synthetic gas produced would be likely to cost substantially more than natural gas.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on the revised water pollution permit, if it is re-issued, later this summer.




Tom Joseph, Public News Service - KY