Memphis, TN – Despite talk of future CO2 regulation increases and global warming concerns, coal-fired power plants provide more than half of America's electricity. While the nation is looking into alternatives to fossil fuels, a new coal-fired plant is under construction near Memphis.
The Earth Policy Institute and the Department of Energy report that in 2007 59 proposed coal-fired power plants were abandoned, put on hold or canceled.
Co-Chair of the Arkansas Global Warming Commission Kevin Smith says while surrounding states are denying the construction of new coal facilities, Arkansas is welcoming their arrival including Plum Point in Osceola, which is about 40 miles north of Memphis. The plant began construction in 2006 and is scheduled for completion in 2010. If all goes well the plant could become the largest generating facility built in the Mid-South. The project would provide 1,100 contract employee jobs, and 100 full time during the operational phase. Kevin Smith says those numbers are small in comparison to what jobs renewable energy can bring to The Natural State.
Like Kevin Smith, members of the Tennessee Sierra Club, Steven Sondheim and James Baker, believe the development of a new coal facility is the wrong direction. Sondheim says he was shocked to learn of the new facility because he thought the world had acknowledged the existence of global warming. Baker adds that the new facility would produce around 4.5 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. He believes the construction of the new plant is not only an environmental issue but also an economic issue.
Sondheim, Baker and Smith all question whether or not the facility will come to fruition because of new demands for greener energy. However LS Power and Dynegy, owners of the new Plum Point facility believe there is still a market for coal production.
Spokesman for Dynegy, David Byford says the development of the new facility has to do with customer demand, and there was a strong demand for a clean coal-powered plant in northern Arkansas.
John Bethel Executive Director of the Arkansas Public Service Commission agrees the additional power is needed, especially in baseload capacity, which provides energy all hours, rather than select peak times during the day.
Executive Vice President of Generation for American Electric Power Nick Akins, says all forms of energy renewable and coal will be necessary to meet the needs of the American consumer.
Kevin Smith says new legislation halting coal production, could appear with the next president if the technologies for unsequestered coal have not been developed. He says a moratorium on coal is being considered by the Arkansas global warming commission whether or not it will be submitted in the report however is unknown. Officials with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the Public Service Commission say there is no reason why Plum Point won't see completion of the first 665 megawatt unit, which will begin generating power for utilities in eight states two years from now. The proposed second unit, which would boost output to 1,330 megawatts, is still up in the air.