Hydroelectric power plant proposed for Carbon County

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CARBON COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)— Will it be progress or will it be a problem? That’s what many people in Carbon County are asking regarding a proposed hydroelectric power plant.

That plant would use acid mine water to generate power. But people who live near the proposed site are mobilizing to fight the project.

This is a massive project. Opponents say it’s too massive for the smaller communities located near it. They fear their quality of life would be destroyed and their health and safety placed in jeopardy.

Charles Schalles- Banks Township Supervisor: “Well, it’s progress in a way and probably benefits somebody but it doesn’t benefit us,” Banks Township Supervisor Charles Schalles said.

And that’s what was heard over and over again from people who live in the Banks and Packer Township areas of northern Carbon County. A company by the name of Grid Balance Hydropower LLC wants to build a hydroelectric plant on top of Spring Mountain. It would use acid mine water from area reservoirs to help generate power. A plan that has folks like Schalles very concerned.

“The dam is actually over a mile long. I can’t comprehend a dam a mile long..80 to 90 feet deep, 500 feet wide. They are going to build three of these dams. It’s definitely a safety hazard, a health hazard. You name it and it’s there,” Schalles said.

Banks Township Supervisors Chairman Joe Clark is spearheading the opposition to the project.

“Now the concern is number one the vastness of it. It’s going to disrupt life and again dam up water. Will the water be pure? Even if the dam breaks will it flood the whole area,” Clark said.

Petitions are being circulated throughout Carbon County. The petitions will be part of an opposition package that will be sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which must approve a permit for the project.

“Why are they coming here? Banks Township and Packer Township isn’t getting anything out of it the electricity that’s going to be sold to Maryland and New Jersey,” Clark said.

But the owner of the company, Grid Balance Power LLC, told Eyewitness News the project is in its very early stages and they are only studying the possibility of building the plant in this party of Carbon County.

“This project would create thousands of construction jobs, create recreation facilities and bring millions of dollars of new tax revenue to Carbon County. It’s a win for this region,” Grid Balance Hydropower LLC’s Paul Direnzo, Jr. said.

Direnzo also said another benefit of this project is it would provide a clean source of electricity to the nation’s power grid. It is still unclear if that electricity would be used by residents in our region.

And the clock is winding down for opponents of the project to get their paperwork into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It must be in their Washington offices by Monday, July 1st.

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