Sunday, December 20, 2009

Seminole withdraws proposed Putnam County coal plant

Environmental groups are applauding Seminole Electric Cooperative Inc.'s decision not to build a new coal-fired power unit at its generating in Putnam County.

Seminole Electric, which doesn't have retail customers but sells electricity wholesale to other utilities across Florida, proposed building a third coal-fired unit at its Seminole Generating Station six miles north of Palatka. But the company said in court papers filed Thursday that it no longer intends to build the new 750-megawatt unit.

"It was a business decision because of the uncertain regulatory and legal environment regarding coal-fueled generating facilities," Jeff Fela, senior public affairs representative at Seminole Electric Cooperative's Tampa headquarters, said Friday.

Coal plants are large carbon dioxide emitters and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said such greenhouse gases pose a public health threat.

Seminole and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which proposed a permit for the plant in 2008, faced opposition from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Florida Wildlife Federation.

"I think everyone accepts we are going to be moving into a carbon-constrained future," said George Cavros, a consultant to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "Coal makes no economic sense in that future."

The proposed Seminole plant was the last of five coal plants that were proposed and withdrawn in the past five years, Cavros said.

“Seminole Electric did the right thing here,” Florida Wildlife Federation president Manley Fuller said in a statement. “It makes no sense to add new coal generating units in Florida when we’re finally moving to install renewable energy sources like solar.”

Fela said the plant would have provided needed baseload energy to accommodate growth. He said Seminole Electric hasn't decided how to proceed with replacing the project.

(Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)

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