Coal-based power projects advance in Midwest US

375px-coal_strip_mining.jpegTwo coal-based power plant projects last week passed significant milestones. The Indiana Finance Authority gave the green light to a proposed $2.65 billion coal gasification project in Rockport, Indiana, that is expected to supply 17% of the total gas used by residential and commercial customers in the state. Kansas also moved ahead on a permit from Sunflower Electric Power to build a $2.8 billion coal-based power plant in the southwest of the state. The utility company has been issued an air quality permit that does not require compliance with federal greenhouse gas regulations expected to take effect in January.

The project launched by Indiana Gasification, a subsidiary of Leucadia National Corp, will create 1,000 construction jobs beginning in early 2012, 200 full-time jobs at the plant site and 300 mining jobs. Project managers say 90% of carbon dioxide emissions will be captured for use in enhanced oil recovery and most all conventional pollutants will be removed from plant emissions. “This project does all that and it was worth all the work of the four years it took to get there,” said Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. “We’re out to become a leader in the high-tech field of cleaner energy.”

The Kansas project continues to enjoy bipartisan support from the state’s legislators in part because of its favourable economic impacts. Construction employment on the 895 MW project could tally 1,900, say backers. John Mitchell, acting director of the state’s Department of Health and Environment, approved the permit over the objections of environmental activists and earlier opposition from the previous governor, Kathleen Sebelius, who now serves as the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration.

The Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit, required under the Clean Air Act, will now be reviewed by the regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “I will be very surprised if they have any problem with what we have done,” said Mitchell, who noted his agency reviewed more than 5,600 public comments on the Sunflower project. Environmentalists, hoping EPA rejects the permit, threatened to sue if the agency does not.