PSC Weighs Public Opinion for LG&E Plan to Convert Cane Run Plant to Natural Gas

by Erica Peterson on March 8, 2012

Louisville Gas and Electric’s proposal to convert the Cane Run power plant from coal to natural gas has cleared a procedural hurdle. The Kentucky Public Service Commission heard public comments on the plan tonight at a school near the plant.

Louisville Gas and Electric is proposing the utility shut down three coal-fired power plants: Cane Run, as well as the Tyrone Plant in Woodford County and the Green River Plant in Muhlenberg County. The company wants to replace the generating capacity with gas turbines on the Cane Run site, as well as by purchasing an existing gas plant in Oldham County.

At the meeting, no one spoke against converting Cane Run to gas. Terri Humphrey lives in Riverside Gardens, near the Cane Run plant.

“We urge you to allow them to build this new facility because quite frankly, we are sick to death of coal,” she said. “We’ve had our fill of it, we’re tired of it, there’s too much sickness in our neighborhood from it and we want it to change over to gas.”

But many, like registered nurse Virginia Bush thought the company should do it sooner than the four year timeframe.

“We’ve known since about 1998 that the coal ash small particulate dust that is in these neighborhoods causes heart attacks,” she said. “It causes pulmonary conditions and now the toxins, we know cause birth defects, neurological deficits, cancer.”

Many also urged the PSC to use natural gas as a transition from coal to renewable energy.

This step is only part of LG&E and KU’s plan to upgrade the company’s fleet to comply with stricter environmental regulations. The PSC previously approved environmental upgrades to some of the company’s newer plants, like Mill Creek and Trimble County. That plan is expected to raise LG&E rates by 18 percent by 2016, but the natural gas phase of the project isn’t expected to add to that.

The company estimates building gas turbines at Cane Run–as well as purchasing additional gas capacity at an existing plant in Oldham County–will cost around $700 million.

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