Cost of energy: officials discuss power plants, conservation

UK’s energy use was the topic of conversation Thursday, when UK energy officials broke down specific costs and energy consumption numbers.

The Kentucky Energy Club hosted a forum with Sustainability Coordinator Shane Tedder and Bob Wiseman, vice president of facilities. Tedder and Wiseman discussed the costs of coal versus natural gas, exploring energy options and where UK’s energy comes from.

The hot water and heat for campus is supplied from three on-site facilities that produce the steam.

Students toured one of the coal-fired steam plants on Wednesday, which is located on South Upper Street. The other two facilities are the Medical Center Plant, located near the hospital, and the Central Utilities Plant, located on Press Avenue.

The Central Utilities Plant, or CUP, is the newest plant that only uses natural gas and has ultra-low nitrogen oxide burners.

Related link: Students tour 1 of UK’s coal-fired steam plants

The three plants do not produce electricity. UK purchases electricity from the Kentucky Utilities company, which costs more than $19 million annually, according to an energy use report by Facilities Management.

On average, 68 percent of the university’s heat is produced by burning coal and 32 percent is from burning gas. Exact percentages vary by year due to pricing fluctuations and weather conditions, the report said.

“We have genuinely tried to be an open and transparent institution,” Wiseman said.

People often try to compare UK’s energy consumption per student to that of other universities, he said. But because UK has three hospitals with all professional schools located at one location, “it’s very tough to have apples-to-apples comparisons,” he said.

The five-year average coal usage for the university is 36,565 tons of coal per year, but according to the report, UK is a relatively small purchaser of coal in the state. Annually, UK spends $3.6 million on natural gas and more than $3.7 million for coal.

“We don’t just burn coal for political reasons,” Wiseman said. “We burn fuel based on cost efficiency.”

Tyler Hess, an agriculture junior who went on the tour, said there are multiple problems with the coal-fired power plants on campus. He cited the fact the smoke stacks are too low at the Central Heating Plant, which even one of the supervisors pointed out.

“There is a maximum of 20 years of coal left in Kentucky,” Hess said. “I think we need to be thinking about the future.”

During the presentation, Hess asked Wiseman if an alternative energy feasibility study could work. Hess referenced Ball State University, and how it is working to convert its campus to geothermal energy.

Wiseman said the new residence halls are considering using geothermal energy, and he thinks there will be pieces of campus in the future using alternative energy sources.

“Coal right now and the regulations governing coal burning is very uncertain,” Wiseman said. The political battle “leaves us in the middle of wondering what to do.”

In the past two years, UK has implemented a $25-million conservation project, with a goal to “reduce energy use by 10 to 15 percent annually,” according to the report. Among other things, the project included the purchase of energy efficient products, retrofitting lighting and upgrading mechanical equipment.

One of the most notable implementations was launched last week, called Empowered. The project installed computer kiosks outside campus buildings to show the building’s energy use.

Related link: Empowered one part of $25.4 million campus energy project

Tedder said part of the mission of Empowered is to “inspire individuals to participate in the culture of energy conservation.”

Hess would have liked to seen the university spend $40,000 of the project’s money on a feasibility study to investigate alternative energy sources. He said with the study, the university could address the “uncertainties” Wiseman spoke about by bringing in experts to establish what needs to be changed.

“I’m not asking to shut down coal plants tomorrow,” Hess said. “I’m asking them to evaluate options.”

 

Reach News Editor Rachel Aretakis at raretakis@kykernel.com.

Environmental Groups/Politics/Paybacks:

In regards to coal mining, plants. If we push and switch to the more expensive natural gas, the administration will make the natural gas fields and burning of natural gas cheaper than coal through gov’t regulations. Which benefit many of the heavily populated areas of the North East. Which will make their large resources of natural gas “cheaper” than coal, as well as allow them to compete with obtaining industries, as places like KY, Ohio and other coal producers lose their competitive advantage of lower electricity rates. By doing so they will win the votes and campaign dollars of the green movement as well as the Northeastern states. And it’s not as if the historically conservative, small electoral delegate numbers states, will really hurt the lefties all that much, as the chances of winning them over was rather small to begin with.

At the same time, thanks to the b/s of “save the earth”, politicians are able to dump billions of taxpayer dollars into “green” projects like ethanol, solyndra, lightsquared, and disastrous chevy volt etc.(if you didn’t know, ethanol has been a boondoggle from the start, but subsidies continued for years, and the mandate requiring ethanol is being INCREASED. The rest, well, they’re bankrupt or nearly so) The owners of who all happen to be hefty political campaign contributors…it’s little more than laundering tax payer money into campaign coffers and the politically connected. Think of Al Gore and the millions he makes jet setting around the world, in between stops at his multiple million dollar homes, and the millions (if not billions) he stands to make from the passage of cap & tax and other gov’t interventionist measures.

It could also have something to do with its usefulness in the service of government regulation of the economy. Too many global-warming alarmists have been caught saying that it doesn’t matter whether the earth is really warming or not: if people believe it, they will support policies that should be adopted anyway.
People with a visceral dislike of free markets and individual liberty have been adrift since the worldwide collapse of socialism. Socialism and its many variants used to be defended as the system that would outproduce wasteful, selfish capitalism as well as create social justice and equality. The record of socialist countries, which includes poverty for most citizens and special privileges for the ruling elite, made that defense incredible. Those who want the state to run or even guide the economy can no longer oppose capitalism on economic or political grounds. They have turned instead to environmental grounds. Unsupervised free markets, they say, will destroy the earth and everyone on it. In their crazed quest for profits, rapacious capitalists will sacrifice nature’s treasures, not to mention future generations, for short-run gain. Nothing less than comprehensive government control can ensure “sustainable development,” that is, economic activity as prescribed by the enlightened forces with the proper ecological sensitivity. If the Western concept of property rights has to be revised, so be it.

On to the Fayette Power Project in Texas:
Apparently they completed (January 2011) adding in scrubbers that are designed to reduce the sulfur dioxide by 90%-95%. However they environmental lawsuit is moving forward from the environmental groups and pecan farmers.
The Georgian pecan farmers you mentioned received a settlement back in the 1970’s from a coal fired power plant in response to their lawsuit of sulfur dioxide harming their crops. The amount was for less than $1 million AND those who refused the settlement lost their case in a jury trial.

Here’s the synopisis and report by the Siera Club Neil Carmen, he says that the evidence is likely that it’s so2 poisoning from the power plant. Even in his own report he makes a compelling case but says that an appropriate technical investigation by the LCRA and the TCEQ must perform adequate field investigations to assure the safety of the Fayette plant, and that local growers can plant a few young pecan trees as test plants and leave new copper materials out to check for corrosion.
BUT his conclusion is that “The LCRA and its Fayette coal-fired power plant have failed for thirty years to consider that pecan trees are among the most sensitive plant species to sulfur dioxide pollution. For thirty years, the Fayette coal plant has been irresponsibly burning coal without utilizing sulfur dioxide scrubbers on units 1 and 2. Fayette area pecan growers have suffered devastating crop losses and economic harm as a result of Fayette’s era of spewing massive quantities of sulfur dioxide and toxic acid gases into the regional air supply and adversely impacting nearby pecan orchards.” (texaspecangrowersalliance.org/neils-report)

Officials with Austin Energy and the LCRA dismiss the pecan growers and environmentalists’ claims, and pecan experts are divided about whether such a thing is even possible. Two of the state’s agricultural extension agents have said they have never heard of a connection between pecan production and plant emissions. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says air monitors indicate the Fayette plant “is not the likely cause” of the area’s vegetative die-off but it’s under investigation.

Sulfur dioxide harming the plants in Fayette County is “a long shot,” said Larry Stein, a Texas A&M horticulturist based in Uvalde who specializes in pecans. And that to prove such a thing will require extensive research and testing.
(statesman.com/news/texas-politics/is-power-plant-to-blame-for-poor-pecan-1101578.html?printArticle=y)

Again, I say, present your case, in court, bring in the experts, and make your case and see how it pans out. Perhaps science has progressed enough to have a different outcome than the Georgia case in the 1970’s.

My use of “inconclusive’ was my own interpretation of the comments from the A&M horticulturist and the other environmental researchers, and “under review” by the state EPA office.

Harvard Study:

Basically Epstein compiled various other studies in an effort to obtain a full cost accounting of the effects of coal. Examples include that burning of a ton of coal today will equal $X amount of environmental costs in the future due to CO2 emissions. The health effects of coal and the cost of treatment for asthma and other respiratory diseases, as well as autism etc etc all were part of determining his full cost of coal. From those, the shortened life expectancy also resulted in a cost that is largely subjective-such as if you live 5 years less…would that be worth $100k to you, or a million?
Considering that C02 effects being a “pollutant” and having a “adverse” effect on the environment is a hotly contested issue, as is man made global warming in general, and that the studies purported to show the adverse effect of coal plant emissions on the general populace, those around plants and miners etc have all been shown to have various flaws and not properly account for other variables etc.

Meaning, that the estimate of the cost of coal by Epstein is little more than a wild ass guess. There are a few things, such as the coal slurry ponds, and other documented, provable effects of coal that can be assessed and worth discussing, the rest is pretty thin at best.

Claims of human health danger based on reviews of inexact public records, even though such studies are inherently incapable of proving causation. Associations between fine particles and mortality or heart disease have been said to exist in some and shown to be nonexistent in other studies. Health impacts are even seen to disappear when confounding conditions are taken into account. Scientists like James Enstrom in California have lost their jobs after publishing honest studies showing that no health effects occur.
Enstrom fired:californiawatch.org/dailyreport/researcher-files-whistle-blower-retaliation-complaint-against-ucla-4474

Appalachian health miners/critics: nma.org/pdf/tmp/Hendryx_Critique.pdf

mercury/autism/coal plan: sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/mercury-emissions-from-coal-burning-power-plants-and-autism-is-there-a-correlation

air pollution kills, not: junkscience.com/2012/01/05/shocker-chinese-air-pollution-debunks-u-s-epa-junk-science

subjective costs/coal/live: masterresource.org/2011/03/coal-externalities-knappenberger/

for more links on these issues, and the peer reviewed studies that don’t make the headlines since they don’t conform to the “fossil fuels” are evil agenda, check out the resources at: globalwarminghoax.com

Some of the various 1’s and 2’s etc can be combined, so, just writing a response, a bit wordy for using 1’s and 2’s etc

-Coal accounts for less than 1% of mercury emissions in the USA.

Sorry about that, it’s coal fired power plants release less than 1% of GLOBAL mercury emissions.
(fossil.energy.gov/programs/powersystems/pollutioncontrols/overview_mercurycontrols.html)

70% global of mercury emissions come from mother nature, about 35% of the 1% comes from US coal plants.
(atmos-chem-phys.org/10/5951/2010/acp-10-5951-2010.pdf)

The air quality measures for mercury put out by the EPA are two or three times more stringent than those of the FDA and some world health organizations. The EPA even used data other professionals have rejected as not probative. Moreover, serious scientists say that our power plants account for less than 0.5% of all the mercury in the air we breathe, and most mercury is naturally occurring. (online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703421204576329420414284558.html)

As for the fish and mercury:
Mercury emissions aren’t a direct threat to humans; rather, they settle onto bodies of water, and then make their way up the aquatic food chain. Because mercury is a neurotoxin, the fear is that pregnant women can engender development disorders in their fetuses by eating fish that have bio-accumulated mercury. Accordingly, EPA identifies pregnant women as the population at highest risk from U.S. power plant mercury emissions.

Review the graph taken from page 51 of EPA’s Technical Support Document: National-Scale Mercury Risk Assessment Supporting the Appropriate and Necessary Finding for Coal and Oil-Fired Electric Generating Units, which is essentially EPA’s justification for regulating mercury.

(1) In the proposed rule, EPA stated that 2016 projections for mercury emissions (29 tons) reflect current emissions, so this graph (the “2016 scenario”) represents the current mercury threat; (2) EPA “interpreted IQ loss estimates of 1-2 points as being clearly of public health significance” (p. 17 of the Technical Support Document); and (3), the columns of the graph, “Watershed percentiles,” refer to freshwater, inland bodies of water, and the degree to which they have been polluted by mercury (i.e., the 99th watershed percentile refers to the top one-percent mercury-polluted freshwater, inland body of water).
According to EPA’s own analysis, the new mercury regulation serves to protect America’s population of pregnant, subsistence fisherwomen, who eat 300 pounds of self-caught fish reeled in exclusively from the most polluted bodies of water. Notably, EPA failed to identify a single member of this supposed population. Instead, these people are assumed to exist. Is that a plausible assumption?

I don’t have an expert opinion on what is a dangerous amount of mercury exposure, but considering that the EPA and the FDA both say what we’re being exposed to has no ill health effects, than until shown otherwise, I have no reason to disbelieve the EPA and FDA. In short, the “OMG EVIL COAL IS POISONING US WITH MERCURY!!!” is b/s.

Sticking with the EPA and the EPA’s inspector general report:

“The Inspector General’s investigation uncovered that EPA failed to engage in the required record-keeping process leading up to the endangerment finding decision, and it also did not follow its own peer review procedures to ensure that the science behind the decision was sound.” (epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=e0584e33-d3da-4fba-b95a-e93548105e09)

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson readily admitted in 2009 that EPA had outsourced its scientific review to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is an institution whose credibility has already been called into question.(want me to lists all the scientist asking to be withdrawn from the IPCC report? Or the “peer reviewed” articles cited that were NOT peer reviewed, or citing student thesis’s? lol) Even so, EPA still refused to conduct its own independent review of the science. As the EPA Inspector General found, whatever one thinks of the UN science, the EPA is still required – by its own procedures – to conduct an independent review.

“The endangerment finding is no small matter: Global warming regulations imposed by the Obama-EPA under the Clean Air Act will cost American consumers $300 to $400 billion a year, significantly raise energy prices, and destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs. This is not to mention the ‘absurd result’ that EPA will need to hire 230,000 additional employees and spend an additional $21 billion to implement its [green house gas] regime. And all of this economic pain is for nothing: As EPA Administrator [Lisa] Jackson also admitted before the Environmental and Public Works] committee, these regulations will have no affect on the climate.” (Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works-if you google this, you can watch him on video)

Well, the following post is going to be massive, tried to cut it down as much as I could, mad props to whoever actually reads all the way through it-let alone the sources! haha
But thanks to Friends of Clean Air asking for further information instead of just accusing me of being in the pocket of Big Coal, or anti-environment and all the other hyped up charges most people make instead of actually attempting a debate and engage on the battlefield of ideas.

Jordan- Can you please give me your sources for the following statements:

1.) “[C]oal accounts for less than 1% of mercury emissions in this country.”

2.) “[T]o be “exposed” to high enough amount of mercury…you would have to eat approx 3lbs of fish a day every day for a year from the worst mercury polluted water source in the country to reach a dangerous health level.”

3.) “As for the Fayette Power Project down in Texas, the scientist haven’t been able to find a link to the coal plant and the surrounding countryside (even the environmentalist admit that).”

4.) “There are means of testing toxins in plants etc, why then are the results “inconclusive”, though a report submitted by Sierra Club scientist Neil Carman, which said up to 15,000 trees have been destroyed by sulfur dioxide pollution is “under review”.” (I’d like the source of the “inconclusive” and the “under review” part of this comment.)

5.) “[W]ith the EPA’s own inspector general citing them for using “scientific research” that doesn’t even meet the EPA’s own guidelines for the peer review process, and the recent court cases that have been tossed out against the EPA for them hiding and blatantly manipulating data…” (The inspector general quote, the date of the quote, and your source, as well as a list of the recent court cases “tossed out” would be great.)

I’d also like to know the following:
1.) “[T]o be “exposed” to high enough amount of mercury….” Then, you make the comment about the 3 lbs. of fish.

What is a “high enough amount of mercury” in your opinion?

2.) You’ve accused the Harvard study of “bias.” Could you explain this further and the basis of your bias accusation? What would be the bias in the study and, more important, why?

3.) You’ve said the following: “I’m going to wait to see the evidence before cutting my own throat with higher energy prizes that seem to just be a payoff to environmental groups and those politically connected enough to push regulations that benefit their multi-billion dollar investments in “green” energy.”

What exactly are you speaking of here? What “payoff” to environmental groups are you referring to?

“Regardless, I have a very difficult time believing you squandered your B.S. degree on coal mining. On coal MINING? Not management? Not research? Actual coal mining? If so, you’ve made a very bad choice guided by the desire to make quick money without the thought of consequences- the consequences to your own health and safety, the consequences to job security, the consequences to the health and safety of others, the consequences to the environment. I feel very sorry for you, ProCoal, and I know that sometimes we defend to the death the bad choices we make. That’s just stubborn pride. I would advise that at some point in time, you look beyond the microcosm of your world and beyond the rhetoric you’ve posted here and take a hard look at the consequences- the real consequences- of coal.”

Your being a condescending person again… By the way quit talking about something you know nothing about. I very seriously doubt an engineering degree goes to waste. I’d say an English degree is a much bigger waste. To clarify the energy sector of mining pays significantly higher than the metals, and non metals side. It also offers a higher level of job security depending on the energy company you work for. Coal isn’t going anywhere for many many years. We need the metallurgical coal to make the building your writing these nasty responses from. Engineering isn’t just about engineering its about testing how capable you are to solve a wide variety of problems. It also shows that you have a drive not found in many other college degree programs. The level of work required to succeed in engineering is at least 5x that of most other college degrees. The amount of credit hours required too is an extra semester(12), that should be completed in the same amount of time (4 years). When I see an engineering degree I don’t necessarily see smart. I see someone who can work for something and never give up.

Personally I think your just wasting space as a lawyer and not contributing to the betterment of society. But rather just clogging it up. Again my opinion as is yours that we waste our degrees to go into mining. Not everyone who gets an engineering degree goes into management or engineering.

When will you learn to play nice? You see this is the face of the “Friends of clean air” the same slogan used by the sierra club.

Friend of Clean Air: you pose much of your response as “how do you deny…”-I’ll freely say, I don’t deny anything that you’ve pointed out, I only argue against the blame lying at the feet of “evil big coal”.

You’ve mentioned the “harvard study” showing the costs of big coal to the tune of hundreds of billions…blah blah blah. That same study turns up in on the mainstream media and the environmental blogs, but surprisingly, none of the scientific and statistical criticisms, what most people would call “the peer review process” that points out the holes, flaws and biases in the study process and its conclusions. Realistically, most of the critics put the public cost of coal around max 80 billion. ANY $ bore by the public and not the coal companies/customers is a problem and should be resolved, but you have to make the case and prove it.

Unfortunately,(fortunately for all of us who like being able to afford our electric bills) even the doubling of electric costs from coal would not allow wind or solar to be competitive in the power market.

As for coal being a mercury emitter, sure is! though coal accounts for less than 1% of mercury emissions in this country. (there are natural emissions after all) On top of that, the health risks associated with mercury are correct, except that to be “exposed” to high enough amount of mercury…you would have to eat approx 3lbs of fish a day every day for a year from the worst mercury polluted water source in the country to reach a dangerous health level. Or, you could just break one of those cfl bulbs…

How could a HARVARD study be so far of you ask? Well, easy enough, one example and then you can spend 5 minutes doing some research on your own. The costs of coal to Americans health, such as mercury poisoning or even increased asthma, autism etc etc-there hasn’t been any scientific study that has stood up to the peer reviewed process that shows a link to coal power plant pollution and any health problems. The critics have been linked to in the other comments sections concerning coal/health effects on this website. Your assertion of “well documented” has a tendency to fall flat on its face… perhaps you should have said instead “Well documented front page headlines…”, as the study criticisms are never heralded throughout the land in front page news or the lead story of the evening news…

As for the Fayette Power Project down in Texas, the scientist haven’t been able to find a link to the coal plant and the surrounding countryside (even the environmentalist admit that), do you think that perhaps the decline in agriculture would have something to do with the multiple extended droughts in the region? though farmers and environmentalist blame “acid rain”-Is it more likely that struggling ranchers see a chance to keep their farms if they can siphon off a few million bucks from the local coal plant (which means siphoning it off from their neighbors who will see their energy bills rise)? There are means of testing toxins in plants etc, why then are the results “inconclusive”, though a a report submitted by Sierra Club scientist Neil Carman, which said up to 15,000 trees have been destroyed by sulfur dioxide pollution is “under review”. let them hash out his methods, go through the peer review process, and see what it turns up then take the plant to court, show your evidence, bring in the experts, and make your case.
Unfortunately instead of taking them to court and airing it all out, the Georgians settled for a chunk of change, w/out having the coal companies have to admit to any wrongdoing. Some will see that as an admission of guilt, others with any business or law experience know that all you can determine is that it was cheaper to pay them off that fight them in court or allow oneself to continue to be harassed and damage the public image. Bad for business. Pretty disappointing.

If you want to make an argument about mountain top removal, knock yourself out. at least you’ve got a chance here. To me, it comes down to property rights. Miners don’t like MTR b/c it employs fewer miners. Some don’t like it b/c it messes up their skyline, as for those who say it destroys their health and water, ok, prove it and you get to be a millionaire. Ever wonder why there aren’t millions of trial lawyers living the high life off of all the evil, dirty coal poisoning cases that they won to the tune of billions of dollars?

It always seems your arguments are less about finding the truth, and more about advancing your agenda to shut down coal use/development to preserve the perfection of nature/environment.

If Fayette Texas power plant is proven to be the culprit, then they’ll have to pay damages, and find a solution to the problem, buy the property, clean their toxins, something. And I’ll rally behind that, b/c again, property rights.
However, with the EPA’s own inspector general citing them for using “scientific research” that doesn’t even meet the EPA’s own guidelines for the peer review process, and the recent court cases that have been tossed out against the EPA for them hiding and blatantly manipulating data (we call that lying in the real world lingo)-I’m going to wait to see the evidence before cutting my own throat with higher energy prizes that seem to just be a payoff to environmental groups and those politically connected enough to push regulations that benefit their multi-billion dollar investments in “green” energy.

And ProCoal, one more thought.

Here’s the first line of your second to last post: “Just to let you know, I do work for a coal company and I am not exploited in any way by them.”

Here’s the first line of your last post: “Uh, I stated in the first line that I am a coal miner and I’m not at all sorry that I chose the profession I’m in.”

Where do you say you’re a coal miner in the first line of your second to last post?

Regardless, I have a very difficult time believing you squandered your B.S. degree on coal mining. On coal MINING? Not management? Not research? Actual coal mining? If so, you’ve made a very bad choice guided by the desire to make quick money without the thought of consequences- the consequences to your own health and safety, the consequences to job security, the consequences to the health and safety of others, the consequences to the environment. I feel very sorry for you, ProCoal, and I know that sometimes we defend to the death the bad choices we make. That’s just stubborn pride. I would advise that at some point in time, you look beyond the microcosm of your world and beyond the rhetoric you’ve posted here and take a hard look at the consequences- the real consequences- of coal.

ProCoal-

I wouldn’t have children if I could not afford, with ease, to feed them and keep them warm in the face of fluctuating energy costs. I think it’s socially and morally irresponsible for people to procreate in one breath and in the same breath say they can’t ride out fluctuating prices and provide for their family. Too many people are doing it though, and consequently, too many people are living off the sweat of others and occupying and destroying far too much of our natural world. But that is an entirely different debate.

Back to coal….If you factor in the hidden costs of coal- from cancer to asthma to lost tourism in areas where MTR mining is utilized, etc.- burning coal costs an additional $345 billion dollars a year in the U.S. alone according to a Harvard Medical School. This would equate to 18 cents per kilowatt hour extra. As an article in the NY Times states about this study:

“Even the study’s most conservative estimate of the uncounted cost of coal — $175 billion a year — would more than double the average cost of coal-fired electricity, the authors found. At this lower range, roughly 80 percent of the costs were from well-documented public health impacts like lung and heart disease, with the rest of the costs attributed to climate change and other environmental impacts as well as local economic effects like lost tourism in coal-mining areas.”

If you want to deny the health consequences of “big coal”- the Black Lung, the asthma, the COPD, cancer- can you really deny the environmental impact of coal? MTR mining, while the most blatantly and obviously destructive environmental consequence of coal, is really just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the less obvious and less talked about problems that are proving to be most destructive. Like the fact that eating wild-caught fish is quickly becoming a thing of the past because of the mercury content of the meat. The FDA warns people on its website to not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish because of how much mercury is found in these species. Coal-fired power plants are the #1 source of airborne mercury emissions. How do you deny this?

How do you deny the fact that entire ecosystems of trees are being decimated from coal-fired power plant emissions? Like in Central Texas where the Fayette Power Project, a coal-fired power plant, is operating without modern sulfur dioxide emissions controls and literally wiping out everything within a 30-mile radius. Pecan growers are going out of business because their trees are dead. What about in Albany, Georgia where pecan growers settled for millions with a power plant for the same problem? How do you deny this?

What about the devastation in the Great Smoky Mountains, where Great Smoky Mountain National Park receives the highest sulfur and nitrogen deposits of any monitored national park, and the average acidity of rainfall in the park is 5 to 10 times more acidic than normal rainfall, because of the surrounding coal-fired power plants. Since 1948, based on regional airport records, visibility has decreased by 40% in winter and 80% in summer because of smog. How do you deny this?

How do you explain these problems? Have you truly pledged so much allegiance to the coal industry and sold off so much of your moral conscience that you simply cannot see the devastation coal is causing in our natural world?

Uh, I stated in the first line that I am a coal miner and I’m not at all sorry that I chose the profession I’m in. I do agree with you that cheap is not always best. But, which class of people pays their electric bill easier—poor or rich? Look at this, everyone likes hot water, lights and heat or AC to keep the temperature around 70 degrees. Lets say that on average the electric bill equals 200 dollars and one household has an income of around 1000 dollars a month and another household has an income of around 4000 dollars. Which household would end up having to make choices on cutting back on medical, dental or even food? Or which one would be able to simply pay the bill and not give it another thought? Both households like the same temperature, same hot water and have lights on. Even though most people would like to have better goods and that are made better, but cannot afford them like others. We as Americans cannot drive up energy costs just for the sake of making all of them costing the same while making already struggling families even worse. There has to be a fine line between cheap and what’s best. But, right now, it looks like most people don’t care about others and want expensive energy. Remember, someday you may be one of the less fortunate in this world that struggles to keep your family fed and warm; all the while wishing you could give more to your family but cannot because so much income is spent out just to keep them warm!!!

ProCoal, are you a coal miner?

I’m guessing your answer is no.

When was the last time you spoke to a FORMER coal miner about his feelings towards the industry?

ProCoal, you’d be suprised at how many people are willing to pay more for a cleaner source of energy. You really need to think beyond “cheap is best.” If not, you’ll continue to buy Made in China instead of Made in USA, you’ll continue to use styrofoam instead of the many eco-friendly alternatives out there, and you’ll continue to be nothing more than a tool of the coal industry. I’m sorry you picked the profession you did. I really am. You’ve tied yourself to a dying industry. In other words, your grandkids won’t be debating coal. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look outside of the box you’ve gotten yourself into, even if just for a moment, to see there are more responsible alternatives to what is cheap. Cheap isn’t best. Cheap is simply easiest.

Just to let you know, I do work for a coal company and I am not exploited in any way by them. They always are pushing me and I am willing to take more training courses every year I work for them. I do not make low wages either. Everyone would be mighty surprised at the wages paid nowadays, even to the lowest paid. It is, flat out great money! The thought of low wages are a yesteryear idea that makes for wonderful propaganda for those that are ignorant of the importantance of coal. Yes, it takes someone with more than a basic high schol education to work in the mines anymore; even to operate the modern machinery that is present in today’s mines. To repair them takes even more of an education as most have computerized operating systems in which the most important tool for a mechanic is now the laptop instead of wrenches. Oh and one other thing, I do have a Bachelor of Science degree and am working in the mining industry. Also, the extremely small amount of coal being burnt by the UK utilities doesn’t amount to anything, but it would to a student’s tuition if coal was no longer burned! By not using our cheapest energy available, we our pricing ourselves as a country and as individuals out of any kind of market, both globally and right here at home. It’s very foolish to use expensive forms of energy just to turn around and complain about the high price of goods and services!!!!

Correct you are Friends Of Clean Air,but in the warmer months both coal plants shut down for boiler maintenance and are not needed to heat water for campus. The fossil fuel natural gas should also be conserved, individuals of the UK Family must cut back on their engery consumption to help save the earth.

Friends of clean air;

Big coal might be ending in the US… however in the Asian markets and developing nations its just begun. Oh roughly 8 times the population of the current US lives in these markets. Angela your thinking to narrow.

Also your telling me that we can get twice the energy for roughly the same cost as natural gas? Wow that’s a no brainier. That is not a pro coal statement. That is a statement from someone with common sense. Who cares about the lessening economic strain that college puts on peoples family’s. Not everyone who comes to UK gets scholarships or from a privileged background.

Again switching from coal to natural gas at this time is fiscally irresponsible. Not saying it isn’t a bad idea for the future but right now it would be very very fiscally irresponsible.

Please do take a picture and show us this “smog” I didn’t see it this morning either and can you please learn to play nice. My parents taught me if I didn’t have anything nice to say I should keep my mouth quiet. You insult all of us when you use the negative comments on here to say “this is the face of the pro-coal movement”.

S.Smith, you are incorrect. UK burns coal year-round. The two coal-fired heating plants burn coal to produce steam to heat the buildings in the winter and also to provide hot water year-round. Here is what UK’s Office of Sustainability states about the function of the three heating plants on campus:

“UK operates three central heating plants. The Medical Center Plant (located near the hospital) and the Central Heating Plant (located off Upper Street) have both coal and natural gas boilers. UK’s third and most recently constructed plant, the Central Utilities Plant (CUP) (located off Press Avenue), is a natural gas-only facility with ultra-low nitrogen oxide (NOx) burners. The CUP boilers have the ability to burn fuel oil if natural gas becomes unavailable. The CUP facility became operational in early 2010. All three facilities produce steam, which is then piped throughout the campus to produce hot water and building heat. UK does not produce electricity in any of these facilities.”

Also, regarding my earlier post regarding the natural gas/coal ratio, here is what UK’s website claims:

“UK’s five-year average coal usage is 36,565 tons per year. On average 68 percent of our heat has been produced by burning coal and 32 percent is produced by burning natural gas. In 2010 the split was 53 percent coal and 47 percent natural gas; this was due to low natural gas prices. Exact percentages will vary by year due to pricing fluctuations and weather conditions. UK on average spends $3.6 million per year for natural gas and over $3.7 million per year for coal.”

The UK Power Plants only burn coal in cold weather to produce steam to heat buildings, a very efficient process. Yes the power plants are outdated and could burn cleaner if modernized. To reduce the amount of coal burned UK Faculty, Staff and students should conserve energy and save the coal for future generations. Everyone must sacrifice to save the earth.

ProCoal2- As I know you’ll be back on this forum looking for a response, I’m going to give you one.

One, I do not represent the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club constituent on campus does not support transitioning the two coal-fired heating plants on campus to natural gas. They advocate transitioning the university to solar or geothermal. I am all for solar/geothermal as well, but what I am advocating is getting UK there in baby steps- the only way UK will ever move away from its strong financial ties to coal. I believe a transition to natural gas would be a much more realistic option in the short-term both in logistical and financial terms. The heating plants already burn natural gas, albeit just some of the time. I believe it is a 20% natural gas/80% coal ratio, although I have not looked at what UK claims on their website these days. I am advocating increasing the natural gas side of that ratio and gradually “weaning” UK off of its sugar daddy, coal. I am absolutely an advocate of UK transitioning to solar or geothermal when those options become more of a reality.

Two, nobody here is insulting coal miners. I see the coal miners as being just as victimized by big coal and corporate greed as the environment is. Yes, miners are hard workers. They work hard because they have to for their families. They work hard because they have few choices. This is exactly what is exploited to the max by the coal companies you support and will eventually work for. If you think coal companies are looking out for coal miners, you are sadly mistaken. It’s all about profit. That is why mountaintop removal is so appealing. It’s a perfect representation of a modern day coal company. Screw the environment. Screw the miners. Let’s blast away an entire mountain for quick and easy profit with the least number of workers necessary for the job. Former coal miners are among the most vocal anti-coal voices out there. Nope, my gripe is not with coal miners. It’s with the fat cat CEO’s at the top getting rich off the backs of the poor and the environment.

Three, the smog coming from the 2 coal-fired heating plants speaks for itself. Nevertheless, I will find a way to post pictures of it on the Kernel to rebut your “now THIS is real smog” pictures, either in a letter to the editor or something similar. Sometimes a picture really says it all.

Four, don’t give me the hot air about vapor barriers and landfills complying with the regs. Save that rhetoric for those who don’t understand the reality of the situation. I dare you to live near one of these “compliant” landfills ProCoal. The unfortunate people who do live near these landfills and sludge ponds would say something very different from the rhetoric you are putting out there. The people living near Nevada Energy’s 91-acre coal ash landfill in southern nevada would tell you they are experiencing respiratory problems from the coal ash dust that blows from the landfill to their places of residence. They protested the expansion of the landfill late last year and unfortunately lost that battle. And what about the folks in Shively, KY living near LG&E’s “compliant” coal ash pond off of Cane Run Road who fought like hell against its expansion because they didn’t want an expansion of the coal ash sludge they had to live next to. Were they just “misinformed” and “ignorant” about living near a pond that contains mercury, lead, and cadmium? What about the ash ponds in Underwood, North Dakota that were lined but developed leaks and contaminated ground water with unsafe levels of arsenic? What about the rupture of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal ash pond in 2008 that spilled billions of gallons of coal ash sludge across hundreds of acres? What about the 2005 incident in western Penn. where residents woke up to fly ash slurry flooding their community because a hillside repaired with fly ash collapsed? I’m sure they gave their thanks to Allegheny Energy after their neighborhood was contaminated with arsenic and other toxic metals.

ProCoal, save your rhetoric. The era of “big coal” is ending.

Angela (Friends of Clean Air) this will be my last post I’m seriously tired of reading this website it makes my blood boil with how truly blind, naive and condescending you are to anyone who does not support the sierra club and its ideals.

Did you know that the sierra club the so called “friends of clean air” took $26 million between 2007 – 2010 from natural gas companies? This folks would explain why they are so for natural gas it is in their best interests. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0212/72400.html

This is a picture of smog folks. http://www.sustainabilityninja.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/smog.jpg I walk to campus daily everyday to and from for a mile and a half. I do not see anything that remotely resembles this smog. Our counterparts here would have you believe that this area is covered in a cloud of smog this is contrary to the truth.

Many ignorant condescending comments have been contributed from both sides of the argument and along the way. Your right they do not help the pro-coal cause. However to paint us all as ignorant rednecks with little intelligence is very stupid. Most of the pro-coal people choose to not post on here because they feel the way I do. It makes us very mad that you are so ignorant. I’ll have you know that I personally will graduate with 2 engineering degrees from the university of ketnucky. So do me a favor and quit insulting the intelligence of any pro-coal individuals. You call us naieve, ignorant, and in not so many words stupid. You are pouring gas on the fire. Many of the individuals that I know work for coal companies and the consulting companies. Each are some of the hardest working outstanding people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Coal miners work harder than most everyday workers. I can’t stand to see you insult them it’s just disgusting.

With that being said yes natural gas is more environmentally friendly than coal. Yes maybe one day our power generation will come from natural gas. However by no means is it the sole replacement for coal in the long haul. It still emits greenhouse gases just less than coal. If you truly support clean air you will direct your efforts toward green energy that has a zero carbon foot print. Such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric, In short anything that does not require a combustion reaction to generate energy.

This is not a court room this is an internet board. The information you contribute is not helpful and some of it is downright horse crap. It doesn’t take much to Google quick facts about unfiltered coal emissions. However, many of these things you complain about have a particle distribution in the ppm range. Which our EPA and FDA have allowed to acceptable standards. If these heating facilities emissions were really an issue to the EPA then they would have been closed when the tighter regulations will enforced later this year. I know for a fact that most ash does not wind up in landfills. A few summers ago when interning I monitored ash fill from an E.K.P. Power station in Winchester be compacted and used to level out an area for future development. But before you go and think we just dumped ash in a hole and covered it up with soil. Everything was done to ensure compliance with OSHA and environmental regulations to prevent contamination (vapor barriers etc…). So please do us a favor and quit posting false nonsense.

If the University of Kentucky chooses to switch to natural gas given its current budget state and that of the state of Kentucky it would be downright irresponsible. Maybe one day it will be more economical but today is not.

The smoke stacks at the Central Utilities Plant are too low? Is this a problem? I’m confused. The article stated that the facility only burns natural gas and not any coal. Now everyone has a problem with burning natural gas?
Also, did anyone evenay attention to the fact that only approx. a third of the heat and hot water is heated by gas for about 3.6 million while the other two thirds come from coal with the LOW cost of only 3.7 million? That’s about two thirds of the heat for same price of only one third with gas. Doesn’t take a genius to figure the math here!!!!!! Coal is still cheaper to burn for energy!!!!! By the way, if the ash goes to a landfill (which I seriously doubt, the landfills have a liner to prevent groundwater contamination from anything in the landfill. I would safely bet that the ash goes to a concrete plant in the area and when you walk on those nice cidewalks and park in the parking garages, it has plenty of coal ash in it. It is a necessary component in the concrete to slow the curing process to make concrete work. Better do some research of what coal and the ash is really used for. Also, study up on your landfill construction.

“Angela: nobody likes you go back to court. Your just as much to blame for your the “slanderous” comments caused your condescending ones. Quit shooting holes in the arguments because your court room arguments suck ass. As for fracking… Watch the HBO documentary gas land. That will tell you what this gas boom is actually doing to the envoriment. Looks far worse than coal. You would like it since your one of those damn environmentalist. I bet you support social welfare too.”

Folks, this is the face of the modern day pro-coal movement. These are the folks who attack the environment and attack people who fight for environmental causes without being able to articulate why they are so against the pro-environment movement. It just boils down to Bill S. Preston’s priceless little ditties: “Nobody likes you.” “Damn environmentalist.” “I bet you support social welfare.” What knowledge. What substance. I’ll tell you what, I’ll side with anyone who is educated and fights for a cause they believe in over this outspoken nimrod who can’t formulate an argument and can’t even formulate a coherent insult against a cause he doesn’t fully understand.

Bill S. Preston, where are you? Please come back. Can you please make us all laugh again by giving us more pearls of wisdom?

What a joke. Go coal! Bill S. Preston is truly your mascot.

Friends of Clean Air:
“This debate at UK, in its most basic form, boils down to those people who want to create positive change for a healthier and cleaner environment and those within UK’s administration who want to reap the financial benefit from their connection to Friends of Coal.”
so…. disappointing.
1) If one of the employees is so sick, I suspect he’ll have a million dollar pay day for working in an “unsafe work environment”. Their fear is understandable, considering their ignorance and that of yourself.
2)so…visible smog? aesthetically not very pleasing, but if they don’t like it so much, why not just move?
3)when it’s more cost effective to switch to natural gas or upgrade, then they will be
4)scrubbers, the assumption being that they’re necessary to “clean” all the evil horrible no good toxins spewing out of the stacks
5)all true, but, how is anyone to understand the context/perspective w/out explaining amounts, compared to other sources/natural emissions etc
6)Did you know with every breadth you emit harmful, deadly gasses?
7) it absolutely does. did you know that if you drink enough water, you’ll shut down your kidneys and die? yet people aren’t dropping dead in the streets from water poisoning…
8)see #7
8)all true, but then again, I could break one of those EPA approved mercurly curly q bulbs and b exposed to more toxins in a few seconds than in a lifetime of living next to the UK power plants…see, context.
9) lol, really? I’m surprised there aren’t any of those “smog” people running around all over Lexington.
10)just a note, IF you ate fish, every day, roughly 20lbs a day, from the WORST mercury level rivers and creeks in the nation, you would finally start to reach dangerous mercury levels in your body.
11)This is also true, if by emissions you mean energy/man made emissions. If you mean out of ALL emissions, including natural sources, well, coal accounts for less than 1% of mercury emissions.
12)also true, then again, w/out explaining that there haven’t been any studies showing any ill effects, well, what’s the point?

The EPA’s own inspector general has dumped on the EPA for using “scientific studies” that don’t qualify under the EPA’s own peer reviewed requirements. The studies that have come out touting the research showing the evils of coal are always front page news, big bold letters etc-the peer reviewed process that rips them to shreds a month or two after the headlines doesn’t even get a mention.

Perhaps when there’s some evidence that coal is responsible for all the health and other evils you claim, we’ll get behind a push to “end the evils” of coal, but until then, perhaps you should ask the age old question Cui Bono?

Joseph- I am on campus daily and see the smog from the two heating plants every day. The smog is open and obvious and something UK can not pretend isn’t there by claiming it isn’t. I’d say UK will have a pretty big problem on their hands as students, parents, and UK staff become more educated about the health problems associated with burning coal and if, as some posts have stated, it is true that UK employees around the plants are getting sick.

Congratulations to the UK energy managers for their recent student information meeting and energy plant visits.

In my industrial career I designed,managed the operation and maintenance of large energy facilities. The steam generation facility utilized low sulfur Eastern KY coal. teh facility was provided with modern instrumentation and stack emission control facilities. The stack emission was invisible and fully compliant with Claen Air Regulations. As a engineering student I lived at old Scott Street barracks-right next to the Upper Street powerhouse, as a student and frequent campus visitor I have never observed out of control stack emissions from that facility.

UK is currently engaged in an effort to enhance our campus academic and housing facilities, these is sorely needed. Dollars to replace coal burning facilities with natural gas or geothermal must compete with other campus needs. As an active Alum and grandparent of several current students adcvocating replacement of the current energy production facilities would in short words would be stupid and irresponsible.

$25-million on a “conservation project” that sounds ineffective at best. With that money, UK could fully transition both of its antiquated, dirty, coal-fired heating plants to natural gas and do something that has a tangible benefit to the health of its students and staff and the health of those living in Lexington and central Kentucky. Instead, UK is putting kiosks outside of campus buildings to show the building’s energy use- kiosks most students won’t put down their cell phones long enough to notice much less use. What a waste.

Here’s what Bob Wiseman and Shane Tedder aren’t telling anybody….

1) UK employees on site at the two coal-fired heating plants are worried about their health and they view burning coal as a real problem. They see and smell the smog daily, they see that it stays at street level on most days, they are forced work in it, and they know that at least one of their co-workers this past year who worked intimately near the S. Upper plant is very ill. UK employees speak of their fears amongst each other but realize they are powerless to change status quo.

2) Those who work and live near the coal-fired heating plants are aware of the fact that the smog generated by the two plants is highly visible day in and day out.

3) The coal-fired heating plants are outdated and held to outdated air quality standards.

4) The coal-fired heating plants do not come equipped with modern clean coal technology such as scrubbers.

5) The smog emanating from the stacks of UK’s coal-fired heating plants is not just steam, as students are told. Coal is comprised of carbon, sulfur, hydrogen, nitrogen, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, cadmium, chromium, radium, etc. When coal is burned, the reaction between the air and coal creates carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides. When coal is burned, substances such as mercury, cadmium, and arsenic are released.

6) UK’s coal-fired heating plants emit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

7) Sulfur dioxide promotes heart disease and asthma and nitrogen oxide breaks down lung tissue.

8) The coal ash that is generated by UK’s coal-fired heating plants contains mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and other heavy metals.

9) The coal ash that is hauled out of UK’s two coal-fired heating plants ultimately ends up in landfills, contaminating our soil and water.

10) Burning coal at UK releases mercury into the air which ultimately ends up in our rivers and streams and in the water we drink and the food we eat.

11) Burning coal is responsible for half of the mercury emissions in the U.S. (EPA, 12/21/2011)

12) Fly ash radiation, from the uranium and thorium in coal, is more radioactive than nuclear waste, and people who live within 1/2 to 1 mile of a coal plant’s smokestack ingest radiation “equal to or higher than does for people living around nuclear facilities.” (Scientific American, 12/13/07) Consider many people at UK and within Lexington live within 1/2 to 1 miles of UK’s two coal-fired power plants.

This debate at UK, in its most basic form, boils down to those people who want to create positive change for a healthier and cleaner environment and those within UK’s administration who want to reap the financial benefit from their connection to Friends of Coal.

Mr. Hess, you are incorrect the life of the Kentucky coal reserves at the production rate of 2010 would be 136.604 years. This quick calculation is based upon;
A production rate of 104.960 Mtons/year (million tons)(http://www.eia.gov/coal/annual/pdf/table2.pdf), and a estimated reserve base of 14,338 Mtons(http://www.nma.org/pdf/c_reserves.pdf). This quick calculation yields a result of 136.604 years. Over 6 times the life span of your made up information.