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The Progress Home >> Saturday, February 27, 2010 - Mixed reaction to demise of River Hill project

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Mixed reaction to demise of River Hill project
Saturday, February 27, 2010
By Wendy B. Lynn Staff writer
KARTHAUS - The Quehanna Industrial Development Corp. in Karthaus has been trying to bring to fruition a multi-million dollar project for the region in the form of the River Hill Power Plant, a facility that would burn waste coal in order to produce electricity.
Recently, board member Ray Savel informed The Progress that plans for the power plant are dead. The Progress also received a press release on the power plant from the Sierra Club in Pennsylvania, which said Sithe Global, the company behind the project in Karthaus as well as the Toquop coal plant in Nevada and the Desert Rock plan on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico, is canceling its proposed $600 million River Hill plant due to financing difficulties.
"We have suspected for a long time that the River Hill project was very tenuous at best," said Randy Francisco of the Sierra Club in Pennsylvania in the press release. "It says a lot about these dirty coal plant proposals when they can't get taxpayer bailouts and they can't make them viable even with the backing of a company with pockets as deep as Blackstone's," he added, referring to the Wall Street equity firm, The Blackstone Group, which was a financier for the project.
According to the press release, the plant would have emitted tons of global warming pollution every year along with harmful levels of soot and smog pollution.
Savel disagrees with Sierra Club's assessment of the situation. He said the plans for the project, which was to be a state-of-the-art power plant, included cleaning up the waste coal piles dotting the landscape around Karthaus, which would help clean up the water and acid mine drainage. Savel called it a "win-win" situation because not only would the plant help clean up the area, it would also provide jobs during construction and operation, jobs Savel pointed out that are desperately needed. Savel added that the coal plant would have been clean burning as well.
"I'm an environmentalist," he said. "That's why we need to get these coal piles cleaned up." Savel was also instrumental in spearheading efforts to clean up the Quehanna Wild Area north of Karthaus. The wild area is home to elk and one of the largest stands of white birch trees east of the Mississippi.
"We're not going to give up," Savel continued, saying it was a shame, disappointment and disgrace the government didn't go along with helping to finance the project with a guaranteed backed loan.
The next meeting of QIDC is scheduled for Wednesday and the directors will be looking at possibly trying another route to have the power plant built.
Savel suggested that maybe the Sierra Club has a better way to get jobs into the area.
The press release from the Sierra Club stated that the end of the power plant plans was an opportunity for the development of clean, renewable energy sources for the area and to create more jobs for the people of Pennsylvania.
"We are relieved that we will not have to breathe the pollution this plant would have spewed," said Michele Babin in the press release. Babin is part of the Sierra Club's Moshannon Group. "Pennsylvania needs to shift toward a cleaner, healthier and more secure energy future that creates jobs and protects our environment," she said.
The press release said Sithe Global's other two coal projects have also stalled.
Sithe Global could not be reached for comment.
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