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American Electric Power Pulls Billion Dollar Big Sandy Request

Victory: Kentuckians no longer facing 30% bill increase to clean up coal plant
May 30, 2012
Louisa, KY —

Today, Kentucky Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, notified the Public Service Commission that it will withdraw its application to install clean air controls on their Big Sandy coal fired power plant in Louisa, Kentucky. Big Sandy, a major emitter of multiple forms of air pollution, needs to be retrofit in order to meet critical clean air safeguards. Until today, American Electric Power was planning to sink over a billion dollars into new scrubbers on the plant. However, AEP faced strong criticism from the local community over a 30 percent increase in rates that would be required to finance the upgrades. This rate increase would have taken the average energy bill for a household from around $1,500 per year to over $2,000 a year.

Big Sandy coal plant. Its coal ash pond (where the waste from coal burning is stored) is considered a risk to human life. (Chris M / Flickr)

“I went to the hearing and listened to AEP explain their plan,” said Patty Wallace, an 82 year old resident of Louisa, Kentucky and member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. “Their own presentation showed exactly why the proposal to invest more money in that old coal plant made no sense. On top of our existing bills, all of us would have to pay a billion dollars in surcharges. I said, ‘We’d be fossil fools for sure to do that.’ I’m glad to see that they are beginning to pay attention to what’s going on in the world. It’s time to invest in energy efficiency and clean energy.”

Modernizing our energy fleet is a key component to economic recovery. Investments in clean energy, substantial clean air and water protections and energy efficiency programs will create jobs and reinvigorate the economy far faster than retrofitting a coal fired power plant. In fact, a report from 2011 found that, over the next five years clean air and water safeguards could create more than 1.5 million jobs around the country. The report by Ceres, called “New Jobs—Cleaner Air” discovered that every dollar spent ensuring clean air protections are met has led to between $4 and $8 in economic investment.

“Burdening Kentuckians with a billion dollar retrofit of an outdated coal plant would be a bad decision, and we are glad that AEP has realized that,” said Wallace McMullen, Energy Chair of the Cumberland Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Kentucky should be a leader in moving forward to a clean energy future through energy efficiency and renewables. We should not be anchoring the Commonwealth to the past with dirty energy. We should all be working together to transition to a cleaner, healthier economy that provides good jobs and a future for our children. Closing the Big Sandy is a step in the right direction.”

"Whatever happens now with the Big Sandy plant, it's critical that AEP focus on providing a fair transition for its workforce and the Louisa community," said Nachy Kanfer, an organizer for the Sierra Club. "Now that AEP won't be pouring a billion dollars into this aging coal plant, the company should prioritize job creation through local clean energy investments."

Big Sandy, located in eastern Kentucky and owned by American Electric Power, has been in operation since 1963. In 2009 it was rated one of the top 50 dirtiest plants in America and its coal ash pond (where the waste from coal burning is stored) is considered a risk to human life. Because of this, many local citizens have been working to transition the plant away from coal-fired power.

“We’re glad to see Kentucky Power acknowledge what is becoming increasingly clear throughout the country—that raising electric rates by 30% in order to spend nearly $1 billion on an aging coal plant makes no sense,” said Shannon Fisk, attorney with Earthjustice. “We hope that the company will work to replace Big Sandy with low-cost energy efficiency, renewable energy resources, and other cleaner options that will create jobs and save money for Kentuckians.”

Contacts

Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098

Sean Sarah, Sierra Club, (202) 548-4589

Patty Wallace, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, (606) 638-4416

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.