November 6, 2009
Contact: Mark Kresowik, Sierra Club, 202-675-7914, or 319-627-7393
Mike Eisenfeld, San Juan Citizens Alliance, 505-325-6724, or 505-360-8994
BLACKSTONE REPORTS 3Q PROFITS BUT CONTINUES
WITH RISKY COAL PLANTS
Citizens: ‘Bring us clean energy, no dirty coal’
Photo: Navajos protest Sithe Global in New York. Blackstone cofounder Stephen Scharzman is a 1969 member of the Bush elite secret society Skull and Bones.
FARMINGTON, N.M. – As the Blackstone Group executives proudly hyped their new found profitability in today’s third quarter earnings call with financial reporters, the one component of their equity portfolio they failed to discuss was their misaligned ownership of the energy developer, Sithe Global, Inc.
Sithe is proposing to develop three large dirty coal power plants around the county, including the River Hill waste coal project in Pennsylvania, the Toquop coal plant near Mesquite, Nevada, and the Desert Rock coal plant near Farmington, New Mexico. All three of the plants have met stiff opposition from locals, including the Mayor of Mesquite, Susan Holecheck, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and several groups within the Navajo Nation where Desert Rock would be located.
None of the plants have the needed permits from local and state regulators. The air permit for Desert Rock was issued in 2008 by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Bush Administration but was remanded by the agency in August over significant concerns of inadequate environmental analysis.
Sithe’s attempts to construct the plants come at a time when building coal plants has fallen out of favor in the financial world. Over 100 of 150 such plants proposed in the early days of the Bush administration have been shelved permanently or indefinitely due to financial difficulties, market uncertainties, increasing public support for cleaner energy and opposition to coal, and the strong likelihood that Congress will enact some type of accountability for carbon-based fuels in order to address global warming.
In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency has already initiated new rules for further reductions of mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants, as well as implementing regulations for the control coal ash waste disposal sites.
“We find it amazing that even as Blackstone returns to profitability and restructures some of the companies they own, at least one of their holdings continues to throw roughly $7 billion dollars at these incredibly risky and unnecessary projects,” says Mark Kresowik, Corporate Accountability Representative for the Sierra Club. “It would seem that someone at Blackstone might want to do a little more due diligence.”
The Desert Rock plant, a proposed 1500 MW coal burner, has come under increased scrutiny this year after it was determined that the permit was issued without the necessary environmental oversight, hence the permit remand. In recent months, Sithe has attempted to make the project appear green by extolling the plant as a possible site for a carbon capture and sequestration pilot project. But that concept has been met with local skepticism.
“Sithe has said all along that Desert Rock can not be made into a CCS project simply because the process has yet to be proven on a large commercial scale,” said Mike Eisenfeld, of the San Juan Citizens Alliance in Farmington. “We know this to be true, and besides, Sithe even states this on their web site.”
In addition, Eisenfeld said that the geology in the area may not be suited for carbon storage, particularly at the volume that would be produced from Desert Rock. He said that the plant would produce over 10-12 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.
“In order to deal with the complexity of CCS, they first have to go through an entire new permitting process for this plant both through the EPA and the Department of Interior,” said Eisenfeld. “We’re convinced that, first of all, Blackstone doesn’t understand the financial boondoggle they’ve assumed, and second, the entire discussion about CCS with Desert Rock appears to be a green wash in order to convince investors that the plant will have minimum impact. They should come down here and see the area for themselves.”
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