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Duke Energy delays construction of Wythe County plant

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  • Annette Smith
    www.roanoke.com Friday, August 08, 2003 Duke Energy delays construction of Wythe County plant The company says it will wait until at least the end of 2005,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 11, 2003
      Duke Energy delays construction of Wythe County plant www.roanoke.com
      Friday, August 08, 2003

      Duke Energy delays construction of Wythe County plant

      The company says it will wait until at least the end of 2005, when it believes the plant will make better sense financially.


      ???Construction of a proposed gas-fired power plant in Wythe County is on hold.

      ??? The Duke Energy plant was scheduled to be in service this June. But now Duke wants to wait until at least November 2005, when it believes it will make better sense financially to operate the plant.

      ??? Duke Energy North America spokeswoman Kate Perez said the company had no real schedule for the Wythe plant because it doesn't have any formal permits.

      ??? "We can't postpone that which we don't have," she said.

      ??? Perez said the process of working with regulators in Virginia has been fluid.

      ??? Duke wants to build a plant about three-quarters of a mile southeast of the New River, adjacent to the American Electric Power Jacksons Ferry substation.

      ??? The plant would draw natural gas from a pipeline under construction by East Tennessee Natural Gas, a Duke Energy subsidiary.

      ??? Duke Energy North America, in a recent letter to East Tennessee, notified East Tennessee of the postponement. East Tennessee is laying a 93-mile natural gas pipeline, called the Patriot Extension, across Wythe, Carroll, Patrick and Henry counties on a route from Tennessee to North Carolina.

      ??? Duke's vice president for energy generation, Curtis Davis, wrote that the company "will be postponing construction of its [Duke Energy Wythe] plant in Wythe County, Virginia."

      ??? Duke Energy Wythe has a precedent agreement - similar to an option on real estate - with East Tennessee to deliver 85 million cubic feet of gas a day. Davis said Duke Energy remains committed to the plant and "believes that the project will be economically viable" in 2005.

      ??? The company did not withdraw its application on file with the State Corporation Commission.

      ??? This is the third time a customer of East Tennessee either postponed or withdrew projects.

      ??? Cogentrix, parent of Henry County Power, said it has stopped all projects requiring huge investments, including its proposed power plant in Henry County. Cogentrix was East Tennessee's largest customer. And United Cities Gas Co., another customer, delayed its agreement with East Tennessee for a year.

      ??? East Tennessee scaled back on its construction expansion in Tennessee because of Congentrix's exit.

      ??? Still, East Tennessee said it is not worried.

      ??? Company spokeswoman Gretchen Krueger said NJR Energy Services Co., a New Jersey marketer of natural gas, will replace Duke Energy Wythe. The New Jersey company has an agreement to get 80 million cubic feet of gas a day from East Tennessee's pipeline.

      ??? The Duke Energy Wythe power plant proposal has been remanded by the State Corporation Commission for further study, after Hearing Examiner Judge Michael Thomas initially recommended the project not be approved, citing his concern with Duke's proposal to pump water from an abandoned lead and zinc mine as a source of cooling water for the plant's gas turbines.

      ??? According to Thomas, no studies have been done to determine the potential effect on the New River.

      ??? Duke would withdraw 7 million gallons of water a day from an abandoned mine beneath the Austinville and Ivanhoe communities in eastern Wythe County. Duke said it would return up to 1 million gallons a day to the mine.

      ??? The New Jersey Zinc Co. mine was closed and flooded in 1981.

      ??? The Austinville mine operated as a lead and zinc mine from the 1700s to the early 1980s. It contains 1.8 billion gallons of water, and the maximum rate of flow into the mine is 10,900 gallons a minute, or 15.7 million gallons a day.

      ??? The water, however, contains lead, zinc and cadmium. The levels of each metal exceed state and federal water safety standards. These contaminants would be concentrated fivefold as the water cooled the towers at the plant.

      ??? Duke says the water would be treated to reduce the contaminants to their original levels before the water is returned to the mine. But no state or federal agency regulates removal of the contaminated water from the mine.

      ??? In March 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency said Duke could return the water to the mine, but the company has to make sure it does not endanger underground sources of drinking water.

      ??? And this March, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality asked the EPA to attach three conditions, which Duke had agreed to. They are:

      ??? Duke must pretreat the wastewater, removing the contaminants to a level at or below existing levels before discharging it into the mine.

      ??? Duke must monitor the effluent of the pretreatment unit and the mine pool and report the results to EPA and DEQ.

      ??? Duke must submit an annual report to EPA and DEQ, listing the sampling data from the pretreatment system and the mine pool water.

      ??? DEQ has scheduled a public briefing Sept. 4 to discuss an air permit for the proposed Duke plant. The briefing will be at 7 p.m. at Grayson Hall Commons at Wytheville Community College.


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