Friday, February 13, 2015

Mississippi power plant to open in 2016 promises clean energy, but residents say coal is still coal

The "country’s very first coal plant designed to capture and sequester a portion of its carbon emissions" is currently under construction in Kemper County, Mississippi (Wikipedia map), Sara Bernard reports for Grist. Mississippi Power is building a $1.8 billion power plant fueled by Mississippi lignite coal. "By converting coal into synthetic gas, the plant would be much safer and cleaner than traditional coal-burning power plants. It would also be designed to capture 65 percent of its carbon emissions." The plant, which meets EPA proposed standards, is scheduled to open in 2016.

"The plant has other green features, too, including a state-of-the-art system for storing its ash and recovering water from the damp lignite," Bernard writes. "It also plans to recycle treated sewage water from the nearby town of Meridian to cool its equipment. It will capture carbon dioxide and other chemical byproducts prior to combustion—and generate revenue from their sale. After all is said and done, the 582-megawatt facility’s carbon output should more or less be 'comparable,' as Mississippi Power regularly asserts in its quarterly reports, “to a similarly-sized natural gas plant.”

But for local residents coal is still coal, Bernard writes. "With a mean per capital income of $13,795 and a third of its residents living below the poverty line, Kemper County is one of the poorest counties in what has long been the poorest state in the union. Some 10,000 residents are spread across roughly 750 square miles of rolling pasture, rambling creeks and thick timberland full of yellow pine and sweet gum that runs up to and across the Alabama border."

For residents "the future of coal looks an awful lot like its past," Bernard writes. "The story I heard is a familiar one: An impoverished rural area. A smattering of locals without money or resources. An enticing promise of jobs, an economic boom." Many local families have owned their property for generations dating back 100 to 120 years and mostly make a living on cotton plantations, cattle ranches, logging operations or have gone outside the county for industrial or manufacturing jobs. (Read more)

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