FRANKFORT — Kentucky Power surprised many Wednesday by filing a last-minute motion to withdraw its application to build a $1 billion scrubber at its Big Sandy plant in Louisa.
“The basis for the request is that the Company wishes to re-evaluate alternatives to meet the Company’s obligations under the Consent Decree, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, and other environmental standards,” attorneys for the company said in their motion to withdraw the application.
Kentucky Power is under a federal consent decree either to reduce emissions at the Big Sandy plant by the end of 2015 or to stop burning coal at the facility. To bring the plant into compliance with the Clean Air Act, the utility was seeking permission from the state Public Service Commission to build the scrubber and to add a concomitant environmental surcharge to customers’ bills, which would have raised rates 30 percent, to pay for the construction.
The company’s filing, however, now leaves the future of the Big Sandy plant in doubt as the Public Service Commission on Thursday granted Kentucky Power’s motion.
Ronn Robinson, corporate communications manager for Kentucky Power, said the changing energy market has created a need to take another look at available options, including the installation of a scrubber. Other options on the table include buying electricity off of the energy market or converting the plant to natural gas.
“We will look at all options, with an eye toward keeping the consumer in mind and the rate impact,” Robinson said.
The plan had drawn heated debate over its pros and cons during a public hearing at Pikeville High School in April. Those in favor of the project said it would produce an economic boom during its construction and would save coal, while those against it pointed out that low-income families would be unable to absorb the 30 percent rate increase and that the scrubber would actually reduce local coal jobs by enabling the utility to burn lower-cost, high-sulfur coal from Illinois and Pennsylvania.