Truth About Gob
Wellington Development Corporation is proposing to build the nation's largest waste coal burning power plant in
Wellington Development's proposed "Greene Energy Resource Recovery Project" would be fueled by 2.5 million tons per year of bituminous waste coal (also known as "gob" or "boney") which would be trucked and barged in from a 20 mile radius of Nemacolin. The waste coal would be burned, releasing more toxic pollution into our air and converting every 100 tons of waste coal into 63 tons of highly toxic ash that would be dumped throughout the region.
The average size of the 14 original waste coal burners in the state is 78 megawatts (a new 521 MW waste coal burner was built in Indiana County and went online in 2004). The Nemacolin power plant would produce 525 megawatts of electricity, which isn't needed for Pennsylvania, since our state is already the nation's largest exporter of electricity.
In the spring of 2003, Wellington expected to have their power plant operating by 2006, but 6 months later the date had slipped back to 2007. They had hoped to receive air quality permits and start construction by mid-2004. As of December 2004, they still haven't received their air pollution permit and have yet to start construction.
Who is Wellington Development Corporation?
Wellington Development Corporation is a project of Wilfrid N. "Bill" Derby, who serves as the company president. Wilfrid lives with Laurie Derby in a wealthy neighborhood in Manchester, Maryland, where people have quarter million dollar homes.
His company is based in West Virginia and was formed by Wilfrid in March 2002 with his business partner, Anthony Julian. They filed with the state of Pennsylvania to do business here in July 2003. They filed for an air pollution permit with the state Department of Environmental Protection on July 13th, 2004 and are still resolving deficiencies in their permit application.
Wellington isn't known for developing power plants, though they have tried pursuing energy deals in Mexico and on Long Island, New York. In fact, Anthony Julian has admitted in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that once they obtain the permits and approvals they need to build the plant, they plan to hand the project over to a large company, likely an electric utility, to build and operate the plant.
The company has made more progress in Cumberland County, New Jersey, where Wellington is offering to build a hydroponic greenhouse to grow tomatoes year-round. This project offers the same number of jobs as are being offered by the proposed power plant in Nemacolin. However, the greenhouse jobs are safer, cleaner jobs. The greenhouse project would cost 10 times less and would produce more jobs.
What you can do!
Forest Service and National Park Service state that Greene Energy and Beech Hollow waste coal power plants will cause damage to national parks and forests 60 to 100 miles away.
Also, we now have online charts comparing the air pollution impacts of the Greene Energy and Beech Hollow power plants to other power plants in the area and health impact flyers on Greene Energy and Beech Hollow.
What's wrong with burning gob?
Pennsylvania gob contains far more mercury than any other types of coal or waste coal in the nation. Waste coal has 3.5 to 4 times as much mercury as normal coal. To produce the same amount of power, a waste coal burner has to process fuel with more than 6 times as much mercury, most of which will be concentrated in the toxic ash the plant will produce.
The Nemacolin plant will take in approximately 3,000 pounds (1.5 tons) of mercury each year, releasing some of that in the air, and dumping the bulk of it in the form of toxic ash. The amount of mercury in a typical mercury thermometer is enough to contaminate all the fish in a 20 acre lake.
Gob has less energy than coal, requiring that more of it be burned to create the same amount of power. Gob is also higher in mercury, chromium, arsenic and lead. Most of that will be captured in the ash, which -- at other waste coal burners -- is dumped locally, in communities near the power plant. Ash dumps aren't required to have basic protection like landfill liners. The waste coal industry has documented that toxic metals like lead and cadmium leach out of ash, so the groundwater is still at risk.
Over time, groundwater could be more at risk from heavy metals in waste coal ash than in the unburned waste coal piles we have now. Compare the pile to coffee beans and compare the ash to ground coffee. You get stronger coffee by running water through ground coffee than through whole beans. Over time metals will wash out of the ash.
Learn more about waste coal here.
What the alternatives are...
We don't need the power plant for the energy. Pennsylvania (and West Virginia) already have large surpluses of electric generating capacity.
Burning waste coal doesn't make gob piles go away. It only turns them into smaller, more toxic ash piles, while spreading pollution into the air. Gob piles can be recovered cleanly and much cheaper by planting beach grass, as researchers in West Virginia discovered.
Wellington Development Corporation can bring cleaner, safer jobs (and more of them) to Greene County by offering us the same sort of economic development opportunity they are offering to New Jersey residents.
Power corporations could utilize conservation and efficiency to meet Pennsylvania's new requirement for 10% of the state's electricity to come from either efficiency or dirty sources like waste coal and trash incineration by 2020. Power companies can also choose to use wind power to meet the 8% by 2020 requirement for cleaner technologies. Conservation, efficiency, wind and solar can offer more jobs and a healthier environment than their smokestack technology counterparts. Southwestern Pennsylvania and parts of West Virginia have good wind power resources and have already attracted wind power developers. More jobs could be created in the region if this clean energy resource is developed further. There is also large potential for job creation in the Pittsburgh region through energy conservation and efficiency. Read more about Pennsylvania's new alternative energy portfolio standard.