In a town that has been ravaged by coal mining, one man is trying to change that.
In his quest, John M. St. James has become the most important figure in the local coal industry.
With the help of a local mining company and a little bit of encouragement from his son, St. Joe is creating a coal power facility that will power the town and provide jobs.
“The town is really on the front line,” said St. George, the former mayor of Lawrence and a former president of the Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation.
“I think we have a lot of potential.”
St. James said he began building his power plant at a time when the coal industry was struggling.
A coal-fired power plant was shutting down at the Lawrence coal mine in central Kentucky.
That coal plant was the only coal-burning facility in the state and would be gone by the end of the year.
St. Joe and his partner, Joe M. Moore, have spent years studying how to build a coal plant and came up with a plan to bring electricity to Lawrence in 2019.
The idea was to build the plant on land that was once used as a railroad bed.
The coal-laden soil would make the plant more efficient and cost less to operate, and the power would be generated by coal-sourced electricity.
The plant will have a capacity of 10 megawatts and will produce about 40,000 megawatt-hours of electricity.
The plan has the backing of the Kentucky Department of Environmental Quality.
It has received permission from the state to begin testing the facility, which is expected to be completed in 2019, and it is expected that the plant will be operational by then.
The project has raised money for the Lawrence county economy and St. Joseph said he has been given the backing from the county to do it.
The project is being financed by a partnership between Lawrence County and the Kentucky Coal Corporation.
The county has been a major partner in coal production and it has an economic impact that extends well beyond the coal mine.
“I think it is a great partnership, and I think we all agree on the positive aspects of coal,” said David M. Pfeifer, the county’s director of economic development.
Pfeifer said the county has also seen a resurgence in the county economy.
The economic impact is already evident in the economic development district that is part of the county government, where Lawrence has been recognized as one of the best places to work in Kentucky.
In 2017, Pfeifier and St James said they spent $2 million in local taxes to build and open the Lawrence power plant.
The tax money also went to the Lawrence Coal Company, which donated a million-dollar plant equipment, a power line and other equipment to the county.
PFEifer said he hopes that by having the power plant operational and producing electricity, the company can contribute to economic development in Lawrence.
“It’s a very important piece of the local economy,” he said.
“It will be a very positive part of our community.”
The project has also benefited Lawrence’s water supply.
The power plant will generate enough electricity to supply water for the city for about a month.
With the new power plant in place, Lawrence now has the power to tap into the local aquifer.
That aquifer is in a very good state of repair, PFEIFER said.
If the plant does produce electricity, it will not only be used for electricity, but also for drinking water.
As the new plant opens, Lawrence’s drinking water supply is in danger of going dry because of the coal dust, PFeifer said.
There are about 10,000 tons of coal dust in Lawrence, which has become a major source of dust and coal ash that has contaminated nearby homes and roads.
There is a plan in place to replace the coal ash with a form of coal that is cleaner and safer, PFA says.
The Lawrence County Power Authority will be providing power to Lawrence through a power purchase agreement.
It will have power for the plant for the next year or so, when it will be replaced by a plant that uses natural gas.
Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press.
All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
Read or Share this story: http://cin.ci/2gDyTZp