Sierran Masthead

Power Plants Sprawl Over Indiana Farmland

by Helen Steussy, Five Rivers Group
Health Officer of Henry County

The latest sprawl to threaten our Indiana farmland is the new power plants being built in 22 counties around Indiana.

These “merchant” plants are usually being sited in rural communities where resident llama farmers and housewives feel isolated and helpless as the power companies bulldoze soybeans and erect 90-foot smokestacks. Merchant power plants sell power on the wholesale market to other power companies during peak periods.

Where are the rights of homeowners? According to the power plant officials who came to our community, the residents have no rights. As “public utilities,” the officials say the local planning board is powerless to stop them.

Do these power plants indeed provide a “public service”? They are being built to run during peak periods, such as the hottest days of summer. They will be selling the electricity on the national grid to the highest bidder. Where electricity usually sells for $20 a megawatt, they can sell it for up to $7,000 a megawatt.

Where does this leave the environment?

  • Air: How about hundreds of tons of air pollution added to our atmosphere each year? How about nine carcinogens added to the soup that we breathe that gives Indiana the distinction of being number two in air releases of carcinogens in the nation? You hear natural gas is the cleanest-burning fuel? Well, assuming we need to burn fuel to get more electricity, you may want to know about the formaldehyde that is released from combustion of natural gas--one of the most toxic substances known.
  • Water: Hold on to your aquifer! Millions of gallons of water will be pulled from the aquifer every year to service these beasts. “What will happen after 20 years of this drainage of our natural water supply?” a lady asked the utility representative. “We don’t know,” was the reply. Of course, when the water is all gone, the companies can go elsewhere. But what do the citizens do who call this their home?
  • Land: Companies strip the soil, pour concrete, set large tanks for diesel fuel on the ground--not a particularly pleasant setting for wildlife.

We need to ask ourselves three questions:

1. Do we need the electricity? Just because we use the electricity doesn’t mean we need it.

2. If we do need the electricity, is natural gas the cleanest way to get it? The utility reps say it’s “the cleanest-burning fuel.” But do we need to burn fuel? How about wind power? How about solar?

3. And if we do need to burn the fuel and build these power plants, should they be sited on our farmland? We are fighting these power plants in Henry, Delaware, and Bartholomew Counties. We need help reaching state legislators and the governor to stop these power plants from trammeling over our farmland, draining our water, and sullying our air.

If you can help or have any questions, you may contact Helen Steussy at (765) 529-3069.

Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[10/8/02]efp

Spring 2000