EDITORIAL: Air quality, job opportunities know no borders

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A front-page story today shares news from a public hearing Wednesday on a proposed coal-gasification plant in Spencer County. While that county’s leaders will have a say in whether the $2.65 billion project moves forward, those of us in Perry County should have input into the suitability of the plant.

When it comes to air quality, what passes over Spencer County crosses into Perry. We breathe the same air.

A vocal group of Spencer County residents are opposed to the project on several fronts, from the environmental impact on the area as well as the feasibility of whether natural gas produced from coal can compete against the gas produced conventionally across the country. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has thrown his support behind the plant and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission late last year approved a 30-year contract by the Indiana Finance Authority to buy synthetic natural gas produced by the plant.

Supporters include local leaders who tout the economic impact of thousands of construction jobs and 300 or more high-paying permanent jobs. The Illinois-basin coal the plant will use may not come from Perry or Spencer counties but there are workers in both counties who work for companies that will benefit from the project.

Local communities share opportunities and challenges. When ThyssenKrupp Waupaca announced plans to develop a monofill near Indiana 70, Spencer County residents voiced concern, enough so that the project was put on hold. To be honest, the last we heard a committee of that county’s planning commission was trying to work out a agreement. But that was a good year ago.

That process, although emotional at times, was in our eyes a good example of both sides sharing their views, agreeing, disagreeing and agreeing to disagree. That’s the way government on all levels should work.

We hope state officials will listen to the concerns of the public opposed to Spencer County’s synthetic gas plant – and those who support it.

We hope Perry County residents will take an interest in the project and weigh the benefits of new jobs and more energy coming from our county with the possible downsides.

To learn more about the project – and to voice your input – visit IDEM’s Web site at www.idem.IN.gov or visit the Spencer County Public Library in Rockport. IDEM is accepting comments by mail, e-mail or fax. Since public comments are due today, the best way is to call (800) 451-6027, Ext. 4-5247. Comments should refer to permit No. 147-30464-00060.

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Your view: Tell us what you think. Comment below, send e-mail to us at editor@perrycountynews.com or mail your comments to P.O. Box 309, Tell City, IN 47586.