Will we pay more for safer power?

Published 3:19 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Coal ash retention ponds, widely used at coal fired electric power generating plants across the nation, have gotten a great deal of attention since the Dec. 22 toxic spill at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant in Kingston, Tenn.

Those coal ash retention ponds are a part of power-generating company efforts to reduce harmful emissions from their plants.

There has never been a coal ash pond spill at one of Alabama Power’s six coal-fired plants.

Alabama Power officials, with a great deal of concern for those living and working near their coal-fired power plants in the state, are reviewing inspection procedures for their coal ash ponds, including one located at Gaston Steam Plant in Wilsonville.

Doing so makes good sense considering the recent news, but those of us living in the shadow of the Wilsonville plant can rest assured that the Gaston coal ash pond is regularly inspected.

At the end of the day, things that are potentially damaging to the environment, such as coal ash retention ponds and the plants that use them, are a direct result of our demand for reliable energy and lower costs.

Every time you or I turn on a light switch in our homes, we are contributing in a small degree to the potential danger of a coal ash retention pond.

Alternative fuel sources, such as wind, nuclear, solar and the potential for clean-coal technology, offer promise for future power generation with less negative impact on the environment.

Alabama Power has been a leader in this regard with their research facility at Gaston. Others across the globe are working to find alternatives to how we heat, cool and light our homes and businesses.

Those alternatives, while safer for the environment and more sustainable over time, do not come without a price.

Are we willing to pay more for safe, reliable electricity to make coal ash ponds a thing of the past?