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Update on the Western Greenbrier CoGen (WGC) Plant (Boondoggle?)
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by Beth Little | 2007

No money for Teachers, but millions galore for a pollutant belching coal-fired powerplant in Greenbrier County!

We have learned that the state has given money to the project, although we do not know which state agency or how much. That makes this project a taxpayer issue at both the federal and state level.

Pocahontas County is facing the loss of $450,000 and 20 teachers are losing their jobs because Congress hasn’t renewed the legislation that funds schools in counties with national forest lands, but Congress can award $107 million to a coal-fired power plant that doesn’t even use the best available pollution control technology!

The state can refuse to address the problem of financing schools in sparsely populated rural areas, but it can fund a coal industry project before it receives approval from the DEP and without any public announcement.

The financial feasibility of this project is in question, especially since the recent publicity on global warming and moves by Congress to legislate carbon sequestration; so all the taxpayer dollars invested, including $50,000 from the Greenbrier County Commission, may go down the drain.

We have filed comments and requested a public hearing regarding 401 Certification by the WV DEP to take water from the Meadow River. If you would like to know about the public hearing, check the website www.cleanbrier.org . We will announce a public hearing if/when one is scheduled.

We were surprised to learn that WGC does not intend to apply for a discharge (NPDES) permit. WGC officials say that they don’t need one, because they won’t have any discharge. Not understanding how this would be possible, I called the DEP and learned that WGC presented three options for dealing with discharge during informal talks with the DEP:

1. Return the used water to the Rainelle Waste Treatment Plant (RWTP). They were told that this would not work, because it would kill the bacteria in the RWTP and ruin the sewage treatment process.

2. Put the discharge in the Meadow River. They were told that they would have to do an antidegradation review, which is very tough.

3. Build a pond and recycle it. For this option they would still need to receive DEP approval that the pond would be big enough and the membrane quality would protect the groundwater, although this process would not be subject to public comment.

So far, WGC has made no formal proposal for dealing with discharge, and DEP officials confirm that it is not clear that they have enough water to begin with.

The Chapter has joined with others to file an appeal of the denial by the Air Quality Board of our appeal of the emissions permit. The Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment is continuing to represent us in this matter.

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