Largest Coal Plant in 20 Years Threatens Mammoth Cave National Park

Date:   February 4, 2002
Contact:   Don Barger, NPCA, Southeast Regional Director, (865) 803-4480
Joy Oakes, NPCA, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, (202) 454-3386

Largest Coal Plant in 20 Years Threatens Mammoth Cave National Park

Louisville, KY - The State of Kentucky has issued a draft permit for a 1,500-megawatt, pulverized-coal-fired power plant that may release thousands of tons of haze- and smog-forming pollutants yearly, threatening human health and nearby Mammoth Cave National Park, according to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). The proposed Peabody Energy Company Thoroughbred Generating Station would be built just 50 miles from the park.

"Mammoth Cave is already one of the most polluted parks in the country," NPCA President Thomas Kiernan said. "Problems with haze, smog, and acid deposition at Mammoth rival those at Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks."

If the state approves the current permit, emissions from the Thoroughbred power plant will have a significant impact on Mammoth Cave. Computer models indicate that emissions from this facility are likely to reduce scenic views up to 25 days yearly. Three out of every four visitors at Mammoth Cave never venture into the depths of the world-renowned cave system, but enjoy hiking to scenic overlooks. Thoroughbred would become Kentucky's fourth-largest producer of mercury. Toxic pollutants could harm the park's biologically diverse aquatic ecosystems, including the Green River, home to more than 80 species of fish and sensitive mussels.

"Clearly this plant would make a bad situation worse at Mammoth Cave," said Don Barger, NPCA's Southeast senior regional director. "We're concerned that Kentucky is on a fast track to permit the state's largest power plant in 20 years while turning a blind eye to its effect on a federally protected area. It is the state's legal responsibility to protect the public and the parks from this pollution."

The Thoroughbred Generating Station would be located in Muhlenburg County, where the Paradise Steam Plant, Tennessee Valley Authority's second-largest coal-fired power plant, has operated for more than 30 years. Despite addition of pollution control equipment on two of the plant's three units, the Paradise plant continues to produce thousands of tons of pollution yearly.

"This is a clear case where the oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants emit far more than their fair share of pollution," Barger said. "Instead of new sources replacing old, these older plants never retire, and the bottom line is more pollution hurting parks and people. This can have a drastic effect not only on our parks but also on health standards that states must meet."

The Thoroughbred power plant is the first and largest of 22 facilities seeking to locate across Kentucky. Inundated by so many requests, Governor Paul Patton issued a moratorium last June requesting that the state stop receiving applications. Kentucky is only one of several states grappling with a flood of new sources. Tennessee has 19 permits pending, Virginia approximately 30. "Clearly, existing laws and regulations are not blocking the development of new sources," Kiernan said.

As the nation debates energy policy, the Bush Administration is mulling changes that could roll back key provisions of the Clean Air Act, including the New Source Review program, designed to reduce pollution at new and modified industrial plants. The polluted conditions at Mammoth Cave National Park and in many communities throughout the United States highlight the need for cleaner, more efficient power production.

"Protecting national parks from air pollution seems to be missing from the Bush Administration's energy plan," said Barger. "Weakening the Clean Air Act won't clean up the air in national parks."


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