Coal Still Makes Economic Sense for Eastern Kentucky Power Plant

Across the country, power plant operators are figuring out how they’ll comply with the Obama Administration’s upcoming rules to reduce air pollution. In Louisville, the utility company has announced plans to convert one of its older power plants from coal to natural gas. But at the Big Sandy plant in eastern Kentucky, another company says it’ll still be less expensive to keep burning coal.

In documents filed with the Public Service Commission last week, American Electric Power subsidiary Kentucky Power announced plans to retrofit the plant with pollution control technology to comply with upcoming federal rules.

The plant is old, by power plant standards—both units were built in the 1960s. But Kentucky Power spokesman Ronn Robinson says it’s still cheaper to spend $940 million to keep burning coal. He adds that it’s also better for the surrounding community’s economy.

“So what that means to the basic community is continued jobs, continued use of coal, which relates to many, many, many other jobs in that area, contributions to local tax bases as well as to other economic entities in that area,” he said.

Kentucky Power projects the plan will raise residential rates by more than 30 percent.

Mickey McCoy lives in Martin County, and gets his power from the Big Sandy plant. He says it’s shortsighted of the company to invest more money in burning coal, despite its environmental effects.

“No, we can’t quit burning coal tomorrow. But by God, we could stop mountaintop removal tomorrow and we could make the transition today to go to a cleaner energy source,” McCoy said.

Kentucky Power’s proposal is subject to approval from the Public Service Commission.