Environment Local News

AEP to Reconsider Alternatives to Coal at Eastern Kentucky Plant

Big Sandy PowerplantAmerican Electric Power may have changed its mind about the future of the coal-fired Big Sandy Power Plant in Eastern Kentucky. The company has an application pending with the Kentucky Public Service Commission to install pollution controls at the plant to continue burning coal. But WFPL has learned that AEP filed to withdraw the application today.

Now, instead of moving ahead with the retrofit of the Big Sandy plant, the company plans to re-evaluate alternatives to comply with upcoming air pollution standards.

Spokesman Ronn Robinson said the company made the decision to reconsider alternatives to coal because outlooks suggest more energy capacity in the market in the next few years. “We will look at everything again,” he said. “We will look at the continued use of coal, the scrubber may stay an option, we will look at gas, we will do a total review, in light of the new energy landscape to make the decision that’s in the best interest of our customers and ratepayers.”

Earthjustice attorney Shannon Fisk represented environmental groups that intervened in the case, arguing that it would be more cost-effective to replace the plant’s capacity with a mix of other natural gas, renewable energy and efficiency measures.

Fisk called AEP’s application withdrawal a victory for both the environment and ratepayers, and said it’s a move that he hopes will be noticed around the country.

“It’s clearly not economic to retrofit this coal plant in the heart of coal country,” he said. “And that really sends a message for coal plants throughout the country, if it’s not even economic to do it in Kentucky, it’s certainly not economic to be spending hundreds of millions, even a billion dollars on aging coal infrastructure like Ohio and Michigan and Tennessee.”

Environment Local News

PSC Approves LG&E Proposal for Gas Plant at Cane Run

The PSC has approved Louisville Gas and Electric’s application to construct a 640 megawatt natural gas power plant at the current site of the gas-fired Cane Run Power Station. The company will also buy existing gas generation in Oldham County.

The company already had approval to retire Cane Run, as well as two other coal-fired power plants. The PSC heard the case to add the gas turbines in March. The proposal was opposed by environmental groups, which argued the generation capacity could be replaced with renewable sources and energy efficiency measures.

LG&E estimates the nearly $700 million project won’t raise LG&E customers’ rates. Because they’re estimated to use a large share of the power, the project will raise rates about 4 percent for Kentucky Utilities customers. But previously-approved environmental upgrades to two of LG&E’s coal-fired plants–Mill Creek and Trimble County–are expected to raise LG&E rates 18 percent by 2016.

Will be updated.

Environment Local News

Kentucky Power Makes Case for Coal at Big Sandy Power Plant

The Kentucky Public Service Commission is set to decide soon whether American Electric Power can keep burning coal at an eastern Kentucky power plant. The Public Service Commissioners heard testimony today in Frankfort.

Kentucky Power’s Big Sandy Power Plant in Lawrence County burns coal, and the company—which is owned by American Electric Power—is asking for PSC approval to install pollution controls to comply with federal regulations and continue burning coal.

But several entities intervening in the case argue that coal isn’t the least-cost option, considering that federal carbon regulations may be in store in the next few decades.

Kentucky Power’s first witness—regulatory director Ranie Wohnhas—was on the stand most of the day. He says the proposal could raise rates as much as 29 percent, but it’s the most cost-effective option. Wohnhas argues that it makes financial sense for the Big Sandy plant to keep burning coal—especially when the economic impact to eastern Kentucky is taken into account.

Environment Local News

PSC Hears Testimony in LG&E Natural Gas Case

Kentucky’s Public Service Commissioners are considering a proposal by Louisville Gas and Electric to convert some of the company’s coal-fired facilities into natural gas plants. The PSC held a formal hearing on the issue today.

LG&E already has permission to retire three of its coal-fired power plants, including the Cane Run plant in southwest Louisville. Now, the PSC is considering the plan to build natural gas turbines at Cane Run and purchase existing turbines in Oldham County.

The majority of the questions during the hearing came from an unlikely source: environmental groups. The groups—including the Sierra Club and Earthjustice—have aggressively targeted coal-fired power plants across the country. In this case, they’ve applauded the shut down of the coal units but are arguing that a better replacement would be renewable sources and energy efficiency.

Environment Local News

PSC Will Hold Formal Hearing Tuesday on LG&E Gas Conversion Plan

The Public Service Commission will hear testimony for and against a proposed project at Louisville Gas and Electric’s Cane Run power plant tomorrow.

The utility company is asking for permission to retire several coal-fired power plants, including the Cane Run Power Station in southwest Louisville. It plans to replace the generation capacity with both new turbines—at Cane Run—and existing natural gas generation in Oldham County. The project is expected to cost about $700 million.

LG&E’s application argues this is the most cost-effective approach, because upcoming pollution regulations would require new environmental controls to keep burning coal.

At a public hearing earlier this month, there was no public outcry over the project. Many living near the plant have complained about pollution from the company’s coal ash landfills in the past, and they want the company to stop burning coal as soon as possible.

Environment Local News

Environmental Groups Say Burning Coal at Big Sandy Isn’t Least-Cost Option

Two environmental groups are contesting an application filed with the Public Service Commission by an eastern Kentucky power company. They say retrofitting the Big Sandy power plant to continue burning coal will be more expensive than the company reported.

In December, Kentucky Power filed an application with the Public Service Commission to spend $940 million retrofitting the Big Sandy Power Plant in Lawrence County. The plant burns coal, and the company—which is owned by American Electric Power—is asking for PSC approval to install pollution controls and continue burning coal.

But the new filings in the case by the Sierra Club and Earthjustice argue that the company low-balled the estimated cost, and that the plant retrofit isn’t the most cost-effective option. Lauren McGrath of the Sierra Club’s Kentucky chapter says the group hired consulting firm Synapse Energy to analyze AEP’s proposal.

Environment Local News

PSC Holds Public Meeting on LG&E Cane Run Proposal Tomorrow

The Kentucky Public Service Commission will hold a meeting tomorrow to allow the public to weigh in on a proposal by Louisville Gas and Electric. The utility is asking the commission to approve a plan to convert the coal-fired Cane Run Power Station to natural gas.

LG&E wants to reconfigure the Cane Run power plant to use natural gas because of the increased cost to comply with upcoming federal air pollution regulations. A potential end to coal-burning is welcome news for many living near the plant, who cite pollution from the coal ash landfills on the property. But PSC spokesman Andrew Melnykovych says with decisions like this, the commission doesn’t take environmental issues into account.

“The only aspect of the environmental compliance that the PSC considers is the cost and how that is to be passed on to the ratepayers,” he said. “But in terms of issues such as the future of the ash landfills at that facility, that is not something that the PSC has any jurisdiction over.”

By law, the Public Service Commission is required to make sure utilities are providing the most reliable electricity at the lowest cost to consumers.

Environment Local News

LG&E, KU Settlement Includes Retrofit Delays, More Money for Energy Assistance

By Jean-Pierre Daniel - Ligne à haute-tension 400.000 volts - Centrale de FessenheimUtility companies, environmental groups, non-profits and the state have reached an agreement in a rate case pending before the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

The settlement was presented to commissioners today in Frankfort. Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities’ original plan included $2.5 billion in environmental upgrades. The new agreement is cheaper—$2.25 billion. That’s because the companies have agreed to not seek upgrades for the E.W. Brown plant in Harrodsburg.

Environment Local News

PSC Issues Recommendations to Address LG&E, KU Customer Service Issues

by Ron Smith, Kentucky Public Radio

The Kentucky Public Service Commission has issued recommendations it hopes will improve satisfaction with Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities’ customer service.

In September, an independent audit found numerous faults with the utilities, ranging from mistaken meter readings to unresponsive call centers. Commission spokesman Andrew Melnykovych (mel-nuh-KO-vich) predicts LG&E and KU customers will notice a difference.

“It’s principally going to benefit those customers who have an occasion to interact with the utility with respect to billing issues and those sorts of things but should be an overall improvement for all customers, yes.”

The recommendations include better staffing of call centers and improved customer service at every management level. The utilities are required to provide the PSC with periodic reports on the implementation of the action plan.

Environment Local News

Settlement Reached in LG&E, KU Rate Hearing

Representative from all sides of a proposed utility rate increase have reached a settlement agreement. Public Service Commissioners will consider the deal tomorrow.

Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities are seeking permission to make $2.5 billion worth of environmental upgrades to power plants, the costs of which would be passed along to ratepayers.

There were a number of parties involved in the case, including the utilities themselves, the state attorney general’s office, environmental groups and others. All of them have agreed to the settlement, which the commissioners will now consider.

Andrew Melnykovych is the spokesman for the PSC. He says settlement means much of the cross-examining of witnesses won’t be necessary.

“What will happen is the utilities will put on at least one, perhaps more witnesses to outline what’s in the settlement agreement and then it’ll be principally the commission’s staff and the commissioners themselves asking the questions about it,” he said.

Melnykovych expects that process to just take one day. The commissioners will decide by mid-December whether to approve the settlement, reject it, or require modifications.