Clark County

Permit for electric plant under fire

Environmental groups vowed to fight a draft air quality permit issued Monday for a controversial coal-fired electric plant in Clark County.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative's proposed 278-megawatt Smith 1 plant in the Trapp community is dangerous to air quality, drinking water supplies and public health, said Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Kentucky Environmental Foundation and the Sierra Club.

Dr. Philip Curd, a Jackson County physician, said in a release from the groups that medical research clearly shows that air pollution from such plants is harmful.

"We could prevent a lot of disease and death by building less coal-fired plants and putting more resources into renewable energy and energy conservation," he said.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative said the unit will use "cutting-edge technology" to reduce emissions. Releases of mercury from the plant will be 95 percent less than releases from a traditional pulverized coal plant. It also will release 99 percent less sulfur dioxide and 80 percent less nitrogen oxide, the company said.

It will produce enough electricity to power 150,000 homes.

The cooperative said the plant will employ up to 700 people while under construction, and 60 when it begins operating.

The environmental groups have been criticizing the proposed plant for months.

Last month, they got some traction with the Kentucky Public Service Commission, which said that seven of nine issues raised by the three groups and three individuals pose serious questions about whether the plant is needed or is a wasteful duplication.

Those issues involve whether East Kentucky Power needs more generating capacity, whether increasing emphasis on renewable energy will make it more difficult to sell power produced by the plant and whether tougher environmental regulations will make Smith 1 too costly to operate.

The PSC told East Kentucky Power to respond to those issues by this week.

The regulatory agency also is conducting a management audit of the co operative. That is expected to be completed this month. And the PSC is looking at how the cooperative plans to finance the project. The federal agency that makes low-cost loans to rural cooperatives has a moratorium on coal-fired plants.

The state Division of Air Quality has scheduled a public hearing on the draft air permit. It will be at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Clark County Cooperative Extension Service office, 1400 Fortune Drive, Winchester.