Breaking News: KY Smith Coal Plant Cancelled by Coop!

Guest Blog | November 19, 2010 | Coal, Energy Policy

kftcstaffThis blog is a repost from KFTC.  Congratulations to all the hard-working activists in KY who made this happen!

Smith Plant Cancelled!  Clean energy collaboration planned.

by Sara Pennington

We have some great news to announce: The coal-burning power plant proposed by the East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) has been cancelled by the utility.

“When I heard the news that the Smith plant is canceled I was ecstatic. I said, “Woohoo!” The news of not only the plant being canceled but also opportunities for collaboration with the co-ops is a breath of fresh air!”
–Steve Wilkins

EKPC has entered into an agreement with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Kentucky Environmental Foundation, the Sierra Club, three individual co-op members, the Kentucky attorney general, and Gallatin Steel (EKPC’s biggest industrial customer). Under the agreement, EKPC will halt its plans for the proposed coal-burning power plant in Clark County by abandoning the permits it needed to proceed with construction. The cooperative also committed $125,000 toward a collaborative effort in which the public interest groups, EKPC and its member co-ops, and other parties will work together to evaluate and recommend new energy efficiency programs and renewable energy options.

This is a new day for Kentucky’s rural electric co-ops, and a great step toward new power for Kentucky. KFTC member Steve Wilkins, a Blue Grass Energy co-op member, has been active in the campaign to stop the Smith plant and bring new power to the co-ops. About today’s agreement, he said:

The Smith coal-fired plant meant nearly a billion-dollar investment and a further 50-year commitment to dirty power. Canceling the plant is a breath of fresh air. Even better, resources can now be redirected and the window opened to collaboration on clean energy alternatives letting the sun shine in on a New Power tomorrow; a tomorrow where rural electric cooperatives work shoulder-to-shoulder with their communities making electricity more affordable through energy-efficient housing and renewable energy sources.”

KFTC members, along with our allies at the Sierra Club and the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, have been very active inkyactivists urging EKPC and the distribution cooperatives to pursue energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions instead of the Smith plant. Studies have shown that clean energy technologies would be a cost effective way to meet EKPC’s demand, while also reducing financial risk to customers, generating jobs throughout the region, and benefiting health and the environment.

KFTC members are excited by the news.

Tona Barkley, a member of Owen Electric Cooperative who ran for her co-op board of directors earlier this year, shared her thoughts:

“I say Hallelujah! I believe this decision by EKPC is the right one for Kentucky. I am heartened by this new development and the commitment EKPC has made to work in a collaborative fashion with co-op members and the other parties to the agreement. This new openness and more democratic method will, I believe, help bring the co-ops back to their original purpose–serving its rural members in a transparent fashion.  And I am very hopeful that this moment marks a turning point in Kentucky towards energy efficiency and renewal energy, both of which will provide economic and job development much greater than another coal plant would have done.”

The four main provisions of the today’s agreement include:

  • EKPC will withdraw all the permits it needs for construction of the Smith plant, including its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, air permit and dredge-and-fill permit.
  • EKPC will form a collaborative with KFTC, our allies, and other key stakeholders to expand the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency programs by the co-ops.
  • KFTC and our allies will dismiss a number of lawsuits and administrative challenges that are currently pending against EKPC.
  • KFTC and our allied groups will not oppose EKPC’s effort to recover costs already spent on the plant.


Many people involved with this campaign are especially delighted with EKPC’s agreement to lead and fund a collaborative effort to expand the co-op’s use of energy efficiency and renewable energy. This working group will include representatives from KFTC, our allies, the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General, the distribution co-ops, plus other key stakeholders. EKPC has agreed to provide initial funding for the collaborative’s efforts, including up to $100,000 for studies of wind resources or other forms of renewable energy. The group will meet at least quarterly to evaluate and recommend cost-effective clean energy solutions.

KFTC members earlier proposed a set of ideas in a plan called “Renew East Kentucky” that could become a focus for discussion within the collaborative. This plan describes clean energy strategies that could create thousands of new jobs in eastern and central Kentucky for construction trades, engineers and electricians, while also helping customers to save energy and money.

“Sometimes it can feel like you are a voice in the wilderness,” said KFTC member Randy Wilson, who emphasized energy efficiency during his run for Jackson Energy’s board of directors in 2009. “But it’s important to get involved and keep pushing for solutions. Now we have a chance to work together with the co-ops to create jobs here at home while at the same time helping people save energy and money.

Folks throughout Kentucky, both in the co-ops and out, have worked toward this moment. Each and every action you took helped create the conditions for this good outcome!

  • 100 – 200 folks attended the public hearings for the Smith plant’s air and dredge-and-fill permits, asking the agencies to consider the clean alternatives to the coal-burning plant
  • KFTC members supported their fellow members who ran for their co-op boards of directors, helping to gather thousands of petition signatures and speaking up in support of democracy and clean energy in the co-ops
  • Many of us throughout the region scheduled meetings with and made calls to their local co-op directors, informing them of alternatives to the Smith plant and moving some toward a cleaner energy vision
  • Hundreds of Kentuckians sent letters to the Kentucky attorney general, asking him to speak up on behalf of Kentucky co-op members before the Public Service Commission
  • Members throughout the state have spoken with their local media, offered quotes for news stories, been interviewed for radio shows, and sent in numerous letters to the editor and op eds in support of clean energy in the co-ops and a better Kentucky
  • Members hosted house parties and spoke with neighbors, and groups, and colleges about the risk of the Smith plant and the potential for the clean energy alternative.
  • And too much more to list here…

KFTC members have much to be proud of, and are thankful to our allies, including the Sierra Club and the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, who have recognized from the beginning that this hasn’t been a campaign simply to stop a coal plant, but a movement of Kentuckians taking action for clean energy and a better future for Kentucky.

Now we can all say, as Randy Wilson said at I Love Mountains Day two years ago, “We were there when we started to turn this thing around!”


As KFTC’s chair Steve Boyce has said, this is just the beginning of our work to bring New Power to the co-ops. Now is the time to celebrate this victory and help fund the work that lies ahead with your membership renewal or donation.

Please help KFTC continue to build new political power, new economic power, and new clean energy power for Kentuckians in 2011. Your investment in and support of this work is now more important than ever. Online donations can be made by clicking here.

Guest Blog
My Profile