Thursday, October 25, 2007

Strange allies unite to oppose coal plants

Whenever a coal-fired power plant is proposed, there are always the usual suspects who come to oppose it. But in many places now, especially in the West, environmentalists are getting some unusual allies in farmers, ranchers and others, reports The New York Times. The movement has grown as power companies seek more plants to meet rising energy demands. The U.S. Department of Energy recently "projected that 151 coal-fired plants could be built by 2030 to meet a 40 percent rise in demand for electricity, largely from soaring populations in Western states," writes Susan Moran.

That effort to expand has helped grow the alliance she calls "an increasingly vocal, potent and widespread anti-coal movement" made up diverse groups such as "ranchers, farmers, retired homeowners, ski resort operators and even religious groups." (At left, a group of builders in Great Falls, Mont., look over a proposed site for a coal plant in a photo by Robin Loznak of The Great Falls Tribune.) Farmers and ranchers — who often have little common ideological ground with environmentalists — are opposing the proposed plants since their fears of global warming have been heightened by recent severe droughts and storms. As a result, they are taking on the power companies, Moran writes:
Ranchers and farmers have featured prominently in several recent battles over power plants. In Jerome County, Idaho, for instance, Sempra Energy of San Diego had planned to build a large plant to burn pulverized coal. A coalition that included the Jerome County Farm Bureau, a dairy association, ski resort owners, other landowners, local politicians and environmental activists defeated Sempra. They also prompted a two-year statewide moratorium on such coal plants.
Moran considers this largely a Western phenomenon, but recent opposition to an expansion of a Duke Energy plant in Cliffside, N.C., shows some of that same diversity. Bruce Henderson of The Charlotte Observer reports that about 200 people showed up at an Oct. 16 gathering of opponents of the expansion. The event took place at a church and gathered far more than just typical environmentalists. (Read more)

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