(Paducah, March 16, 2011) - Close to 200 local residents turned out to hear arguments for and against a requested zone change from rural residential designation to heavy industrial to allow a coal terminal to locate in West McCracken County. The coal company has teamed its request with one from Secure Energy, which proposes to change coal into liquid fuel.
In his opening remarks, attorney Mark Whitlow, arguing for for Southern Coal Handling, told McCracken County Planning and Zoning Commissioners that the initial designation of rural residential was inappropriate.
That was not pleasing to home owners living in the area for years.
If the zone change is granted, the coal terminal will be located outside his front door according to local Chad Cash.
He told the Commission that he and his wife built their home in the area for the peace and quiet. He showed the Commission a giant reprint of a Paducah Sun article about his family and home entitled “Peace and Quiet in West Paducah.” The noise of trains and trucks coming and going to the coal terminal would go night and day.
The Cashes’ son has asthma, according to Teresa Cash. She said that he wakes up in the night now unable to breathe. She fears the dust from the coal facility will make his life and theirs unbearable.
Southern Coal Handlers’ business director, Mike Fitz, said that his company plans to make a twenty million dollar investment and hire fifty fulltime workers with an average salary and benefits of $60,000.
Secure Energy is in the “preliminary stages” of development according to company representative Lars Scott. Coal to liquid is in beginning stages at a facility in Decatur Illinois. The facility will be bigger in Paducah.
One of the draws for Secure Energy is the Kentucky Energy Incentive Act which promises to large incentives to companies that use Kentucky coal to lessen US dependence on foreign oil. Secure Energy is looking to get funds from the state for their program.
Among the opponents to the zoning change were neighbors across the river from Paducah, Harrah’s Casino and its home city, Metropolis, Illinois. Harrah’s is not excited about having cars in their parking covered in coal dust while patrons are inside. They predict that visitors will not return after such an experience. Harrah’s reminded Paducah that their visitors eat, shop and buy gas in Kentucky. Metropolis is developing a riverfront which will be across from the coal facility.
Dianna Riddick of the Sierra Club reminded the Commission that the reason companies like Southern Coal Handlers come to the area is “location, location, location. We have the water they need.” That, according to Riddick, is a more precious resource than coal.
Sierra Club members in attendance with Riddick carried signs that said simply “No.” Riddick urged the Commission to “just say no” to the zone change.
One attorney told the Commission that light pollution will be a major problem. Constant operation of the terminal and security will necessitate major lighting of the site.
“It will be Motel 6- the light will always be on.”
Several speakers complained that half of the requested site is under water, with current flooding of the Ohio. When the site floods, coal will be covered by the river. Others told the Commission that the road into the area was inadequate to handle heavy industrial traffic.
Tyler, LLC, a bottling plant that recently closed, is for sale and one of its owners complained that a coal terminal will make his property unsellable. Food and beverage industry and coal do not mix, he said.
The Planning and Zoning Commission is allowing attorneys for all sides to submit final briefs before issuing a decision in the request.