Wyoming citizens concerned about the proposed Dry Fork coal-fired power plant planned for Gillette have asked the state Environmental Quality Council to make sure the plant is built using the best technology possible. As approved, the plant would be built using outdated technology that would pose significant health risks to the surrounding community and would take no steps to limit the millions of tons of global warming pollution it would emit each year. The plant would also spew toxic mercury that will wash into the Powder River and eventually into the Yellowstone River.
"Wyoming is out of step with the rest of the nation," said Steve Thomas, Director of Sierra Club’s Great Plains Region. "Across the country, states and local officials, most recently in Kansas, are saying no to outdated coal-fired power plants and are looking instead to cleaner energy solutions that can boost economies, create jobs, protect public health and help fight global warming."
The citizens urged the Council to diversify the state’s energy sources and invest in Wyoming’s abundant solar and wind resources. Investing in energy efficiency programs and renewable forms of energy, like wind and solar could create over 5,000 new jobs in Wyoming, adding over $373 million to the economy.
"If Wyoming wants to continue to be a player in national energy production, we have to use the best pollution control technology possible. This efficient technology will not only save utilities and ratepayers money over the long-term, but will also minimize Wyoming’s contribution to global climate change, which poses significant risks for Wyoming as a result of increased wildfires and drought," said Sarah Mentock, Sheridan resident and Secretary of the Powder River Basin Resource Council.
If built, the plant will emit more than 3.7 million tons of CO2 pollution annually plus tons of other harmful pollutants, including soot, smog and mercury that will hurt the air and water of residents in nearby Gillette. Though the impacts on the surrounding community will be significant, the state is not requiring an environmental review of Dry Fork. Instead the state is rushing to build the plant before carbon regulations force them to clean up their act.
"By permitting this outdated plant, the state is threatening the health and welfare of Wyoming citizens said Robin Cooley, Earthjustice attorney.
The lack of modern pollution controls at the Dry Fork plant will make it a major contributor to acid rain in the region and haze in areas like the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Badlands National Park and Wind Cave National Park.
"We are concerned about the affects this power plant will have on our ability to enjoy spectacular views and recreational opportunities in South Dakota’s national parks," said Jim Margadant of the Sierra Club South Dakota Chapter.
The pollution from the plant also threatens one of the nation’s last remaining large prairie rivers, the Powder River, which is home to a number of native fish.
"These parks and rivers are an important part of our outdoor heritage," said Bruce Pendery Program Director of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. "They are also an important part of our economy. We need to invest in efficiency and renewable energy solutions that will protect these valuable places, not in more outdated technology."
The challenge was presented to the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council by Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm, on behalf of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, Sierra Club, and Wyoming Outdoor Council.