U.S. Towns Consider New Uses for Old Coal Plants
With 13 gigawatts of U.S. coal capacity being retired this year to comply with federal mercury and air toxics standards, communities are beginning to look at what they can do with facilities that may have been cornerstones of their local economies.
“From a national perspective, these plants represent a fairly small chunk of the nation’s overall electrical capacity,” Grist reports.
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“For the communities in which they’re located, however, their closures mean much more than just a smaller carbon footprint: The resulting loss of jobs and local tax revenue leaves an economic void as well. And then there’s the question of what to do with these plants, many of which sit on land that, if it can be properly cleaned up, could be valuable for redevelopment or recreation.”
Grist traces the history and likely future of a 96-year-old coal plant in Glen Lyn, Virginia, that employed 31 of the town’s 115 residents. “The loss of local tax revenue will leave a $440,000 annual gap in the county’s budget, a significant chunk for a county with fewer than 17,000 residents,” Adams writes. “The site does boast several features that could make it attractive from an economic development standpoint—it sits on a river, has rail line access, and is fairly close to Interstate 77—but its dirty-fuel history also poses potential challenges.”
John Shepelwich, spokesperson for American Electric Power, the plant’s current owner, saw a few possible futures for the site. “There’s the possibility the whole facility could be razed, or it becomes a site for other construction or a brownfield or a reclaimed property,” he said. “There are so many things that could happen, but it all is based on what’s the most affordable thing for us to do—what will not impact the company or customers in a negative way.”