Sierran Masthead

Persistence Halts Power Plant Construction

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

Until the fall of 1999, companies wanting to build merchant power plants were flocking to Indiana and fully expecting to have their applications approved without public discussion or opposition.

However, things changed when citizens from all over Indiana--including many Hoosier Chapter members--began learning the facts and objecting to power plants proposed specifically to sell power on the national grid to the highest bidder, not to lessen Indiana’s dependence on coal-burning plants.

These power plants are not designed to replace any coal-burning facilities. In fact, what they will likely replace is serious planning or even justification for conservation and use of renewable energy sources like solar power, fuel cells, and wind power.

Indiana citizens have discovered these natural gas facilities will use millions of gallons of water a year, and the air emissions will include several carcinogens, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide, and increase the levels of ozone. The plants in Delaware and Henry counties are located in pristine farmland.

But since the fall, citizen opposition has grown fierce in Delaware, Bartholomew, Clay, Pike, Wells, and Henry counties.

In February, the commissioners of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission attended a field hearing in Henry County. A crowd of more than 500 people came to be heard. They came with testimonials and evidence garnered from journals, the Internet, and newspapers. They spoke with passion and knowledge about antiquated transmission facilities, health effects, aquifers, and more.

Five hours into the hearing, at midnight, over 100 people were still demanding to be heard. It wasn’t just the number of people that impressed the IURC, it was their persistence.

As a result, the IURC put a halt to the construction of the Henry County plant. The IURC has asked for a report from the local county commissioners on the appropriateness of this power plant with respect to their comprehensive plan. All the other counties around Indiana are waiting to see if Henry County’s commissioners will stand up for their constituents. The siting of merchant power plants and the state’s plan for balance between energy production and conservation will hinge on this one decision.

The Five Rivers Group and the Hoosier Chapter have passed resolutions supporting moratoriums on these plants.

Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[9/25/02]efp

Summer 2000