Looking for answers, Commissioners put county’s concerns front and center at statehouse meeting –
By Patricia Beech –
Adams County Commissioners Brian Baldridge, Diane Ward, and Ty Pell met on Wednesday, Feb. 22 with DP&L Chief Executive Officer Tom Raga and state leaders to discuss the closing of the Killen and J.M. Stuart Plants. The commissioners were joined by Adams County Economic Development Director Holly Johnson and Prosecuting Attorney David Kelley.
“We asked for this meeting so we could express our deep concerns about the plant closings in our county,” the Commissioners said in a joint statement released to The Defender. “We made an impassioned plea to those in attendance to make changes to the current planned closings to protect the thousands of Adams County families who will be hurt by this action.”
The plants, which employ approximately 700 local people, are slated for closure in June 2018 if the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approves DP&L’s Electric Security Plan.
The Commissioners said they will continue to push for every available solution to change the timetable of the closings and find alternate job sources for those who are affected.
In addition to the loss of 700 jobs, the county stands to lose over $8 million dollars in tax revenue and the Manchester School District will see their yearly budget cut by nearly 55% when the two coal-fired plants are shuttered.
“We understand the worries and fears of our friends, families, and neighbors who will be affected by the plant closings,” the Commissioners said. “We won’t rest until we can address and hopefully resolve these concerns.”
The Commissioners said they discussed not only the economic impact of the closures, but also the plants’ progress through decommissioning, remediation, and redevelopment.
A lack of information concerning DP&L’s plans for clean-up at the site has led to worries that the county could be left with a “brownfield”, a term used to describe land which was previously used for industrial or commercial purposes that is now contaminated with toxins and poisons.
According to the EPA, there are more than 450,000 “brownfields across the U.S. because there are no legal requirements for demolishing old power plants. Companies typically choose not to spend significant money to decommission them. Across America, retired generating plants have been left abandoned for years or decades, and their capped ash ponds frequently create environmental disasters for local communities. The cost of clean up for those communities runs in the tens of millions of dollars.
The Sierra Club, a principal player in the move away from coal, contends that people living within one mile of unlined coal ash ponds can have a 1 in 50 risk of cancer—more than 2,000 times higher than what the EPA considers acceptable.
Coal ash contains arsenic, lead, mercury, and selenium, as well as aluminum, barium, boron, and chlorine. All can be toxic, and all can be found in the ash ponds of retired coal-fired power plants.
Ash ponds fall into a dangerous regulatory gap since Ohio has no laws designating companies to be financially responsible for covering all the costs of closing and maintaining their toxic ponds.