The East Kentucky Power Cooperative struck a deal with an alliance of grassroots activists and others to halt plans for the proposed coal-burning unit at Smith Power Station in Clark County, Ky. The agreement involves the grassroots citizens group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth along with the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, Sierra Club, the Kentucky attorney general and Gallatin Steel, the EKPC's biggest industrial customer. Also involved in the agreement were individual co-op members including noted Kentucky author and farmer Wendell Berry, a member of the Shelby Energy co-op.
Besides canceling the plant's construction, EKPC will also commit $125,000 to working with the public interest groups and its member co-ops to come up with ideas for new energy efficiency programs and clean-energy options.
"Renewables and demand-side management programs will play increasingly important roles in the energy industry," said EKPC Chief Financial Officer Mike McNalley. "This collaborative will help EKPC gather ideas and feedback to explore the realistic potential of renewables and demand-side management here in Kentucky."
Under the agreement, which was announced Nov. 18, EKPC will withdraw all the permits it needs to build the Smith coal plant. In return, KFTC and its allies will dismiss a number of lawsuits and administrative challenges pending against EKPC, and they will not oppose EKPC's efforts to recover costs already spent on the plant.
The deal was reached after a long campaign by Kentucky activists, who showed up by the hundreds at public hearings for the plant's permits, gathered thousands of signatures on petitions, met with local co-op directors, sent letters to the Kentucky attorney general and local newspapers, and hosted house parties to discuss the issues with their neighbors.
"Sometimes it can feel like you are a voice in the wilderness," said KFTC member Randy Wilson. "But it's important to get involved and keep pushing for solutions. Now we have a chance to work together with the co-ops to create jobs here at home while at the same time helping people save energy and money."
(Photo of a public hearing on EKPC's air permits for a new coal plant via Kentuckians for the Commonwealth website.)