A coal-fired energy plant proposed by a New Jersey company for construction near Waterloo, Iowa has hit a local environmental speed bump--if not a stop sign.
The 750 megawatt Elk Run Energy Station is planned for construction by East Brunswick, NJ-based LS Power, a privately held company that also is a partner in a natural-gas power plant proposed for West Deptford, NJ.
In early May, the Waterloo City Council voted unanimously in favor of the Elk Run's petition for annexation of 345 acres for the proposed facility. That was followed weeks later by city council approval for rezoning of the site.
But the project has been opposed by the Iowa Sierra Club and the non-profit law firm Plains Justice which filed petitions against it. The opponents scored a victory yesterday (Oct 11) when the state's City Development Board rejected the annexation of the 345 acres for the plant.
Carole Yates of the Cedar Prairie Group of the Sierra Club said, “It was clear that this annexation was not in the public interest.” Sierra Club organizer Mark Kresowik predicted, “This is the beginning of the end for LS Power in Iowa.”
LS Power says the plant is necessary to meet increasing consumer demand for electricity and it would reduce the need for utilities to purchase more expensive power as older plants are retired. The company says the project would contribute an estimated $3.15 million in taxes annually and would provide jobs for 1200 workers at the peak of construction.
In response to environmental critics of coal, the company's website says:
"The Elk Run Energy Station is not your grandfather's coal plant. Today's coal-fired power plant technology is 10 to 15 percent more efficient than older coal plants. This means less coal burned and less emissions to produce the same amount of electricity. Plus, Elk Run Energy Station will employ the latest emissions control technologies, making it safe for the environment, and one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants ever built. "
In New Jersey, LS Power's original plan also called for the use of coal as the fuel for its proposed electrical generating plant in West Deptford, Gloucester County. State environmentalists, including the Public Interest Research Group, campaigned against it and called on the governor to issue a moratorium on construction and expansion of coal plants until the state's anti-global warming policies had a chance to take effect.
On August 29, LS Power announced that it was switching to natural gas as the plant's fuel source. That prompted Gloucester County Freeholder Director (and state senator) Stephen Sweeney to issue a joint statement with Gina Carola, chairwoman of the West Jersey Group of the Sierra Club. In that statement, Carola said:
"On behalf of my chapter of the Sierra Club I am pleased that they have made their decision to build a clean efficient natural gas facility here and I am grateful to Freeholder Director/Senator Sweeny for his involvement in this project."
Such a difference a fuel source apparently makes.
LS Power says it has completed the development of nine natural gas-fired projects, representing over 5,700 MW in generation capacity, as well as a 665 MW coal-fired facility. The company also is developing coal, gas and wind generation projects throughout the United States and a transmission line in Idaho and Nevada.