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Study is critical of Jamestown 'clean coal' plant plans

Cost of electricity from Jamestown's proposed "clean coal" power plant would be nearly 10 times more expensive than what is now obtained through hydropower, according to a study released Thursday by more than 20 national, regional and statewide environmental groups.

The study, which also finds the cost would be five times more expensive than using energy efficiency and three times higher than wind alternatives, argues that the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities can meet its power needs through renewable energy and energy savings rather than building a proposed advanced coal plant costing $400 million to $500 million.

"It's time for the City of Jamestown and its Board of Public Utilities to recognize reality," said Ron Melquist, a leader of Jamestown Area Concerned Citizens. "The proposed new coal plant is not needed and would break the back of ratepayers and damage our local economy by producing very expensive electricity at a time when much cheaper alternatives are readily available."

The study was commissioned by the Clean Energy for Jamestown coalition and funded by the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. Research was provided by Lake Effect Energy, a Buffalo-based environmental consulting firm.
The study comes after Praxair, a Danbury, Conn.-based manufacturer of industrial gases, with a plant in the Town of Tonawanda, last month demoted the proposed project behind another planned for Holland, Mich. That dimmed the hopes of supporters for a 50-megawatt carbon capture and storage plant that has been on the drawing board since 2003.

The Jamestown Board of Public Utilities, with the backing of the Jamestown City Council, Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Gov. David A. Paterson's administration, is continuing to press on with its application for major subsidies for the coal project from the U.S. Department of Energy.

A spokeswoman for the Jamestown utility could not be reached to comment, but Tom Congdon, Paterson's senior energy adviser, said it was premature to release a study. He also called the demonstration project necessary for a country where half of the energy is produced by coal, and where New York State has a nominal carbon capture and trade program in place, unlike most of the other states vying for 2.3 billion in federal stimulus funds for "clean coal" demonstration projects.

Although Congdon had yet to analyze the study, he said it was unknown whether the project would receive the federal grant or if Congress will establish a national cap-and-trade program that could make such projects "far more economic."

"Projects like this could very well become moneymakers, rather than money losers," Congdon said.

He also said the project should get a green light because carbon capture and sequestration is considered essential if the country is to significantly reduce greenhouse emissions.

"A lot of these [environmental] organizations have a general policy of no new coal plants. We don't disagree in the Paterson administration, but here we're actually trying to demonstrate that the technology to make carbon capture and sequestration is a real option, and they're opposing it. You can't have it both ways," Congdon said.

Walter Simpson of the Western New York Climate Action Coalition said environmentalists weren't opposed to all "clean coal" demonstration projects, but believe the only acceptable way to test the new technology should be on existing plants rather than building new ones.

He also said the study assumed federal funding of carbon capture and storage.

"It is grossly irresponsible that the governor's office and the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities assume this project is worthy no matter what it will do to electric rates in Jamestown," Simpson said.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.comand drobinson@buffnews.com

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