kathy little

One of Louisville’s two coal-fired power plants will be taken offline in the next five years. By 2016, Cane Run Power Station will be replaced by natural gas—a fuel that’s cleaner than conventional coal.

Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities will retire the Cane Run plant in southwest Louisville, as well as two other coal-fired plants in Kentucky. The company plans to build one natural gas-fired plant on the Cane Run site and purchase an existing gas plant in Oldham County.

“This was based on the new EPA regulations,” LG&E spokeswoman Chris Whelan said. “We looked at what we were going to have to do to be in compliance with those new regulations.”

The company decided it would be cheaper to replace the coal plants with natural gas than to install advanced pollution controls on the aging units. Whelan says if the deal is approved by the Public Service Commission, it won’t affect the rate increase that’s pending or future LG&E rates.

“Based on the allocation of energy, the new plant is not expected to increase LG&E’s rates,” she said. “This particular filing is just for the application to get approval to actually build something, but even then we’ve estimated that LG&E will not see an increase.”

But KU customers could see a four percent increase in their rates.

The switch to natural gas could be a harbinger of things to come for the state’s coal industry. Bill Bissett of the Kentucky Coal Association says the new pollution rules should be coming from Congress, and not the Environmental Protection Agency.

“This is an economic issue that goes way beyond just the ratepayers within the footprint of this power plant but could affect the commonwealth’s economy,” he said. “As we see this movement from D.C. to move us away from coal, the question I think both the PSC as well as Congressional leaders outside of Louisville need to ask themselves, what is this going to do to the economy of Kentucky overall, not just our kilowatt per hour?”

LG&E used primarily Kentucky coal in the Cane Run plant, according to Whelan. The natural gas to run the new units will come from Texas Gas Transmission, whose pipelines start in the Gulf. Some employees might lose their jobs during the transition, too.

But for those who live in the shadow of the Cane Run plant, the news was well-received.

“I think I’m optimistic,” said Kathy Little. Little lives next door to the Cane Run plant and has raised concerns about the plant’s storage of coal ash. At Cane Run, the ash is stored in a pond and open landfill, and Little has documented ash blowing off the property and into their neighborhood.

“The news that there won’t be any more particulates after awhile, obviously is good news,” she said.

The Louisville Air Pollution Control District has issued one notice of violation for the Cane Run Plant, and is investigating other issues. The coal ash landfill and pond at Cane Run will stay on the site—once they’re no longer in use, they’ll be capped. Little says she looks forward to cleaner air when she’s living next to a natural gas-fired power plant, but there are still lingering concerns of water contamination from the coal waste.

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The Coal Ash Series, In Full

by Erica Peterson July 22, 2011

You can’t see the smokestacks of the Cane Run Power Station from Stephanie Hogan’s home, even though she lives a block away. And while the power plant isn’t visible, it’s still a looming presence in Hogan’s life. “Oh, he breathes so bad, he sounds like Darth Vader.” Hogan shakes her head, and her two-year-old son […]

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Coal Ash Scares, Sickens Southwest Louisville Neighborhood–Part Three

by Erica Peterson July 22, 2011

Kathy Little and Debbie Walker stand in Walker’s front yard, 50 feet from the ash landfill at Louisville Gas & Electric‘s Cane Run plant. They watch as heavy machinery backs up, pushing ash from one pile to another. Both women have lived in the neighborhood for decades—Little for 33 years, Walker for 23. Walker says […]

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Coal Ash Scares, Sickens Southwest Louisville Neighborhood—Part Two

by Erica Peterson July 21, 2011

“Okay, here’s our ash pond!” Steve Turner exclaims. He’s the general manager at Louisville Gas & Electric’s Cane Run Power Station, and he is giving Kathy Little and her husband Tony a tour of the plant. “You can see bottom ash, but it’s down at the water level, so it stays wetted.” Cane Run is […]

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Coal Ash Scares, Sickens Southwest Louisville Neighborhood–Part One

by Erica Peterson July 20, 2011

You can’t see the smokestacks of the Cane Run Power Station from Stephanie Hogan’s home, even though she lives a block away. And while the power plant isn’t visible, it’s still a looming presence in Hogan’s life. “Oh, he breathes so bad, he sounds like Darth Vader.” Hogan shakes her head, and Cody wheezes. “You […]

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LG&E Report Confirms Residents’ Concerns About Coal Ash

by Erica Peterson July 13, 2011

Science has backed up claims by people living near the Cane Run Power Station in Louisville who say the plant’s coal ash is contaminating their homes.  This could lead Metro Government to take action against Louisville Gas & Electric. Next to LG&E’s Cane Run Power Station there’s a coal ash landfill. It holds the fly […]

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