By James Bruggers (firstname.lastname@example.org) The Courier-Journal
A power company has applied for a key permit it needs to build a 540-megawatt plant in Clark County, Ky., south of Winchester, that would burn gas produced by coal and garbage pellets.
Kentucky Pioneer Energy LLC, which already holds an air permit from the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet, now wants permission from a state power plant siting board created by the General Assembly earlier this year.
The company needs both permits to secure financing and begin building the $500 million project near the community of Trapp, said Dwight N. Lockwood, vice president of Kentucky Pioneer Energy. It is a subsidiary of Global Energy Inc. of Cincinnati, which has lined up $60 million in federal support from a so-called clean coal technology program.
However, the project still must clear other hurdles, including a threat by its main prospective customer, East Kentucky Power Cooperative, to back out of a 20-year contract.
The co-op has notified Global Energy that its deal is off if the power plant builder fails to secure financing before Jan. 31.
It's unlikely that the Public Service Commission, which announced the company's permit was complete this week, can act before then, especially if anyone requests a hearing in Clark County as anticipated, said Andrew Melnykovych, spokesman for the commission.
''We have a contract with Global Energy, and we will abide by it,'' said Kevin Osbourn, spokesman for the co-op, which provides wholesale electricity to 16 distribution cooperatives that serve more than 456,000 Kentucky homes, farms, businesses and industries across 89 counties.
''We hope they can live up to their agreement as well.''
Lockwood acknowledged the Trapp plant, first announced in early 1999, has suffered from delays. But he insisted that the deal with the co-op ''was still in play'' and he expects the project to proceed.
Earlier this month the Kentucky Resources Council, an environmental group, threw up another roadblock. It challenged the state Division of Waste Management's decision to exempt the plant from solid waste management regulations.
At issue is whether the receipt, storage and use of an estimated 1 million tons of processed garbage requires a waste permit, and whether local officials have any say on how much is brought into their county or how it is managed, said Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council.
Melnykovych said the garbage pellets will likely come from the Northeast. Lockwood said that's possible, but they could come from Chicago, and eventually from Kentucky, too.
The plant will use relatively new technology that subjects the pellets and coal to intense heat, producing hydrogen and carbon monoxide gas that will fuel three steam turbines.
The gasification produces no emissions, and most potential pollutants such as sulfur are removed before the gas itself is burned, Lockwood said. The gas-powered turbines will emit some pollutants, much as a natural gas power plant would, he said.
Instead of producing a powder-like fly ash waste, gasification would yield an inert slag that could be used in concrete or roofing materials, he said.
FitzGerald acknowledged that the plant would be cleaner, and that gasification of garbage produces less emissions, than direct burning of garbage. But he said it's wrong to suggest the plant won't affect air quality or the environment.
The deadline for requesting a local hearing on the proposal before the Kentucky State Board of Electric Generation and Transmission Siting is Jan. 20.