COAL PLANT FAILS IN PENNSYLVANIA COAL COUNTRY
Health Risks and Controversy Remain At Sites on Navajo Nation And Nevada
KARTHAUS, Penn. – An international energy developer financed by Wall Street equity firm The Blackstone Group has abandoned plans for a proposed 300-megawatt waste-coal power plant in rural Pennsylvania.
Sithe Global, which is also behind the proposed Toquop coal plant in Nevada and the Desert Rock plant on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico, announced Tuesday it was canceling its proposed $600 million River Hill plant near Karthaus, Penn. due to financing difficulties.
Progress on Sithe’s other two coal projects has also stalled as a result of permitting and financing difficulties and intense opposition from local communities who say the potential harm to their air, water and health far outweighs any economic benefits from the plants.
“We have suspected for a long time that the River Hill project was very tenuous at best,” said Randy Francisco, of the Sierra Club in Pennsylvania. “It says a lot about the viability of these dirty coal plant proposals when they can’t get taxpayer bailouts and they can’t make them pencil out even with the backing of a company with pockets as deep as Blackstone’s.”
Anna Frazier, coordinator of the Navajo group Diné CARE, said that Sithe’s proposed Desert Rock plant is also on equally shaky ground after suffering one setback after another over the past year. Desert Rock’s pollution permit was withdrawn by the EPA in Septermber, a permit for the transmission right-of-way needed to get the power to Southwest markets was overturned earlier in 2009, and the Department of Energy denied Sithe a request for $450 million in federal stimulus dollars late last year.
“The Navajo communities of Northwest New Mexico have always been opposed to Desert Rock, so we are encouraged by the cancellation of the River Hill project,” said Frazier. “In an area that is already under siege by pollution from fossil-fuel development, Desert Rock has been a six-year black hole that has wasted millions of dollars that could have been used to bring clean-energy projects to the Four Corners region.”
Sithe’s proposed Toquop plant near Mesquite, Nev., originally proposed as a natural gas-fired plant, also has been on the drawing board for years but still does not have a pollution permit or an approved BLM environmental impact analysis, and last year the project lost rights to water it needs for to operate.
“We’ve been trying to persuade Sithe for years to focus on developing Nevada’s vast solar and wind resources instead of outdated and dirty coal,” said Mesquite Mayor Susan Holecheck. “Hopefully, Sithe’s decision to abandon the Pennsylvania plant is a signal that we can soon put the nail in Toquop’s coffin, too, and get it out of the way for clean-energy jobs and economic development in Nevada.”
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