Phase 2 of Osceola coal plant phased out

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

OSCEOLA, AR (KAIT) - While the Sierra Club may be crowing about LS Power canceling plans to build Plum Point ll at Osceola, Mayor Dickie Kennemore says this could be disastrous for Osceola and the surrounding areas economy.

Osceola Mayor Dickie Kennemore said the construction period of Plum Point was a heady time for the city.

"The economy was in a boom. All of our rental property was full. The trailer parks were full. The sales tax in the city and the county all of that went up. Grocery stores did a booming business as well as all other retail and commercial businesses."

It took about four years from start up to put the plant on line in 2010. In that time hundreds of workers spend money in the local area. The money spread out to Marion and Blytheville as well.

Kennemore, "There's an apartment complex in Blytheville that filled up with construction workers. We really for three and a half years had a booming economy here because of the power plant."

Joe Harris Jr. did a ton of hauling for the new plant as did a lot of drivers that subcontracted for Harris.

Harris, "We had a 110 trucks hauling on that job some days. We averaged 54 every day." Harris said he was able to update his trucks just a short while into the project.

Harris, "Six new Sterling dump trucks at the time after we probably worked there for two months. And we just updated our equipment and everything . It was a good thing for us and for other truckers in the area."

The fingers of this construction didn't stop with just this particular trucking company. Mr. Harris says it reaches out to a lot of different industry that support this truck and businesses they dealt with.

Harris, "We hauled rock from as far away as Black Rock and don't forget all the fuel we bought, the guys who kept the trucks rolling and the restaurants where we had lunches and dinner."

The original plan for LS Power was to build another generator on the back side of the current facility starting as soon as Plum Point was completed. That would have given the area another 3-year economic boost but on Monday, that plan fell through.

Kennemore, "Politics had changed, And the EPA and the Sierra Club had got after them and filed suit so they postponed it."

Was there any kind of protest on the first plant? I asked.

Kennemore shook his head, "Maybe we slipped in under the radar. It was in the Bush administration and the EPA was not as strict with their standards at that time. But not this one went through pretty smoothly and we didn't hear anything from any body."

According to Kennemore the current plant actually puts out less pollutants than it was designed to do.

Kennemore was told the plant was on hold for five years. According to a story from the Associated Press, the Sierra Club claims the plant is canceled.

Kennemore says he feels the company, LS Power, had to cave to get another plant completed.

"LS Power is building 3 power plants in the South and this is a settlement issue with the Sierra Club. The company canceled a plant in Georgia, put this one off for 5 years and will get to finish a plant in Texas."

According to their web site the Sierra Club is fronting a huge anti-coal movement in favor of wind and solar power.

Postponed or canceled, one way or another that big economic boost for Osceola may not be coming back, possibly forever.

The city does receive a financial stipend from the power plant. Kennemore says they will receive a PILOT check, or payment in lieu of taxes.

Kennemore, "The city and the county and the schools will enjoy a substantial check that will be divided up. "

Harris said there are a lot of truckers who may have troubles without the second phase of construction. "We were all looking forward to the other phase of the job."

Kennemore, "We're not going to lose anything we have now. But it's going to deny us of an opportunity to have another booming economy for another four to five years."

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.