Last updated: October 13. 2013 5:55AM - 2631 Views

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Pike County judge/executive says Kentucky Power corporate leadership turned its back on region and coal industry; points to Virginia State Corporation Commission opinion expressing concerns regarding Mitchell plant; renews call for popularly elected PSC

PIKEVILLE- Pike County Judge/Executive Wayne T. Rutherford today expressed his grave disappointment in the decision issued Monday by the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) which conditionally approved a Kentucky Power Company proposal to buy a half interest in a power plant in the Mitchell power plant in northeast West Virginia to replace the Big Sandy coal-fired plant near Louisa, Kentucky.

“Kentucky Power has for many decades generated electricity powered by Eastern Kentucky coal and now the power company has turned its back on the region and industry that made it what it is today. It is disappointing that Kentucky Power corporate leadership—with the stamp of approval from the PSC—sold out our region and its people. The decision to shut down Big Sandy now falls on those of us who are left to deal with the economic ramifications of this proposal,” Judge Rutherford said.

Judge Rutherford pointed our environmental concerns previously on the record regarding the Mitchell plant and cited Virginia State Corporation Commission Case No. PUE-2012-00141, Application of Appalachian Power Company, which states on pages 23-24 of the opinion that:

Over the past several years, the EPA has undertaken concerted efforts to identify and to assess the structural integrity of impoundments within the electric power generating industry that hold wet-handled coal combustion (“CCRs”). The EPA believes that impoundment areas and CCRs, if not properly managed, may cause a risk to human health and the environment. In response to an EPA information request on units handling wet or slurried CCRs, forty-five units, including the fly ash impoundment area at Mitchell, were assigned a high hazard potential rating. This is significant because, once Mitchell is purchased by APCo, it will become the owner and operator of the impoundment area that is the subject of the Impoundment Agreement.

Judge Rutherford also stated that it was nowhere near adequate as a conciliatory gesture for Kentucky Power merely to commit to spending $200,000 a year for economic development purposes in a handful of counties.

“This plant replacement will have a monumental adverse economic impact in a far greater area than just Lawrence County and the counties that surround it. Our coal industry here in Pike County and in other Eastern Kentucky counties supplied the coal for the Big Sandy plant and now that’s going to be over and our coal miners are left without the good jobs they once knew. The Big Sandy plant was the largest expenditure ever made in Kentucky east of Lexington and its demise is truly devastating,” said Judge Rutherford.

Judge Rutherford also renewed his previous calls for Kentucky to popularly elect members of the state’s PSC instead of having them appointed by the governor.

“Many southern states elect the members of their public service commission and we should change the law here in Kentucky to do the same so that our PSC is accountable directly to the people and not to the major public utilities,” Judge Rutherford said.

“We have many forces against us right now, but we will not be deterred in our efforts to develop our county and region based on our energy resources. Despite these challenges and heartbreaks, we will continue our work to claim our tomorrows for future generations.”

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