Public meeting held to address proposal to close four coal plants in Western Kentucky
MADISONVILLE, Ky. (WFIE) - People from across Western Kentucky voiced their concerns over a proposal to close several coal plants.
In Madisonville, the Public Service Commission hosted a public comment session Monday to address a recent proposal from Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities.
Officials said the proposal is to have four coal plants retired and replaced with natural gas and solar options. The Public Service Commission is a state commission that would approve or deny this action, and Monday night was a chance for people in the Tri-State to give their input.
The plan to close four coal plants and open new solar and gas plants would cost over $2 billion.
Many people gathered in Madisonville and wanted to know why they would do that.
“We want to do away with coal and we want to move to all these other fuels,” said Tom Felker. “Why do we want to get away from it?”
Chris Whelan with Louisville Gas and Electric told 14 News that it’s just because the coal plants are too old.
“We’re governed by the commission, and we have to put the best cost plan forth. Coal has served us well for a number of years,” Whelan explained. “These plants are at a point where it’s no longer affordable to invest in them.”
Many other people said they were worried about the cost.
“If the commission approves LG and E and KU’s request to spend over $2 billion, how much will that increase my own utility bill, and river views and all other customers of KU?” said Bill Edelman.
According to Whelan, revitalizing the existing plants would cost too much, and those costs would be passed onto the customer. She said building new coal plants would do the same.
“We don’t really choose the choice of fuel,” said Whelan. “We choose it based on least cost. Based on where we are and the regulations, natural gas and the others are the least cost option.”
Judge Executive Jack Whitfield was one of several judge executives there in solidarity against the proposal. He pointed out that last winter, Hopkins county suffered rolling power blackouts in the dead of winter, and they had to use coal to keep things running.
“I am not against solar power. I’m not against gas at all,” said Whitfield. “I am against removing power from the grid that we know we can count on, that we know is reliable.”
Whelan said that by having many sources, they can rely on many options in the event of an emergency.
“At the end of the day we will have coal, we will have natural gas, and we will have solar. So it gives us that option that we can insure that we are reliable,” explained Whelan.
The Public Service Commission will have to consider both sides of the issue. The company needs to prove that their plan is the most cost effective, that it’s necessary and that it’s reliable.
The actual hearing on this proposal will be held on August 22.
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