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Proposed 'clean coal' power plant in Kern County divides community, scientists

by AirTalk®

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The smoke stacks at American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountaineer coal power plant in New Haven, West Virginia, October 30, 2009. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The Obama administration announced on Monday its most ambitious environmental reforms yet: a proposal to force a 30 percent cut (from 2005 levels) in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the next 15 years.

The news would be greeted with mixed feelings in Kern County, California. A so-called "clean coal" power plant - Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) - has been in the works for years. The proposed plant would use coal, but is touted as emitting 100 times less airborne particulates and greenhouse gases than a conventional coal-fired plant. However, the technology is still unproven.

Local residents - many  of whom are farmers - worry about toxic byproducts and the amount of water the plant would use. Currently, the plant is scheduled to open in 2018, but first requires approval from the state Energy Commission.

What would the environmental impacts of this plant be? What economic benefit would this bring to the surrounding community?


Daniel Schrag, Geochemist, Professor of Geology, Environmental Science and Engineering and Director at Harvard University Center for the Environment; consultant on the HECA project

Evan Gillespie, Western Region Deputy Director, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign

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