By Dan Heyman
Half of West Virginia’s greenhouse pollution comes from just five large power plants, according to a report by the Environment America Research & Policy Center.
The report lists the largest carbon polluters nationwide and the five West Virginia plants made the top 100.
Jim Kotcon, conservation chair for the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, says it’s no surprise that huge, coal-fired generating stations, such as John Amos or Harrison, made the list.
What he finds interesting is that so much of the state’s carbon pollution comes from just a handful of sites.
Kotcon maintains the problem will be manageable if those few plants can be cleaned up.
“What it really highlights is how much of America’s greenhouse gas pollution could be controlled by a fairly small number of power plants if we were able to get controls on those emissions,” he says.
The White House is working on regulations to restrict how much carbon plants can put out. The coal industry and its political allies have attacked the plan as unworkable.
Of the five plants, the utilities want to shift parts of three to subsidiaries that can bill West Virginia ratepayers for improvements. Kotcon says that’s no accident – they see carbon controls coming and they want consumers, rather than shareholders, to pay for them.
“It’s a really telling situation that the utilities are in such a hurry to move these power plants from the free market into a regulated utility state, such as West Virginia,” he says.
Kotcon points out the best hope for cleaner power plants may be through carbon capture and sequestration, technology that was pioneered in West Virginia. Some in both the coal industry and the environmental community have criticized this approach as impractical.
But Kotcon says if the utilities worked to adopt it that would drive the cost down.
“They are fairly expensive, but cost per ton of carbon dioxide controlled, going after a few of these large power plants are by far the most cost-effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he stresses.