Wind-power advocates packed a public hearing Thursday night on whether to build a new power plant to meet Delaware’s long-term energy needs.
The event, held at the Carvel State Office Building in Wilmington, attracted a full room of about 160 people. They were commenting on a state consultant’s report that said Conectiv’s proposed 180-megawatt natural gas plant was the best among three options.
But most of the speakers early in the evening focused on the environmental harm that could be caused by a new plant that burns fossil fuels such as natural gas or coal. NRG is proposing a coal gasification plant.
Most of the speakers instead said they liked a proposed wind farm that would feature 200 turbines in the Atlantic Ocean off Rehoboth Beach or Bethany Beach.
“The conventional wisdom is that the public’s environmental interest is in conflict with the public’s economic interest,” said Tom Noyes, of Wilmington. “But my review of the record leads me to believe that the conventional wisdom has been turned on its head in this case. Burning more fossil fuels doesn’t make economic or environmental sense for Delaware.”
And Ellen Lebowitz of Newark said global climate change could wreak havoc on the state’s coastline.
“Wind is here. It’s free from nature. We can harvest it now,” she said.
Several people spoke up for the NRG proposal. Robert Carl, business manager of Local 42 of the Heat & Frost Insulators & Asbestos Workers, praised the potential of “clean coal” to produce a “ripple effect” in the economy by creating good paying jobs.
“NRG’s commitment to clean fuel seems to be on the right path,” he said.
The event was sponsored by the Public Service Commission. The commission, along with three other state agencies, is expected to recommend within the next several months whether to proceed with one of the proposed power plants. The hearing was the last of three public hearings this week.
The commission is expected to hold more public hearings later in the process.
Some speakers criticized the commission and the three companies for redacting information from their bids so the public could not see it. NRG, for instance, redacted information about exactly how much pollution its proposed plant would send into the air.
Lisa Pertzoff of the League of Women Voters said the bids were lacking “key environmental and cost data.” The consultant reports had so much jargon, even the most informed members of the public could not understand them, she said. Such problems potentially undermined public confidence in the result, she said.
Delmarva Power is recommending against all the proposals, saying they would not be cost-effective. The company can meet its needs by a combination of conservation, buying on the wholesale market, and improving the region’s power infrastructure, it says.
By Aaron Nathans
The News Journal
9 March 2007
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