HAZARD — Up a steep dirt road, atop a former strip-mine, sits a concrete slab roughly 30 feet square. It’s the only sign that a wood-burning, electricity-generating plant could someday occupy this remote industrial park.
Supporters say the biomass plant, 11 miles northwest of Hazard, would be an economic godsend for Perry County, creating hundreds of jobs and pumping millions of dollars into the heart of poverty-plagued Appalachian Kentucky. And they contend that the plant would be environmentally friendly and its emissions carbon neutral, unlike coal mining, the longtime backbone of the region’s economy, which is now on the wane.
Despite the sense of optimism surrounding these claims by politicians and other proponents, the reality is much murkier.
Assertions of a job-creation windfall and “green” energy resulting from the billion-dollar project appear to be doubtful at best, an investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has found.