Estill County Energy says it’s moving forward with plans to build a 110 megawatt power plant near Irvine, Kentucky. The plant would burn coal waste, leftover from a processing operation that shut down 20 years ago. A company spokesman did not return calls for comment, but in news reports has claimed the process will help clean up what would otherwise be a polluted brownfield. But Appalachian Center for the Economy and Environment head Joe Lovett says it won’t be entirely clean. He says that the waste that remains—often called a gob pile—will still drain toxic chemicals.
“It’s going to take the gob now that’s polluting the water and put some of that pollution into the air, and then take the waste, the ash, put it on the pile and put it in the water,” Lovett says.
Ash is a by-product of burning coal, and Lovett says that typically waste coal plants take that ash back to the original gob pile. Kentucky law requires only that companies layer a finished pile with topsoil. Estill County Energy is still awaiting an air quality permit, as well as the resolution of a land ownership dispute, before it can build.