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Environmental Defenders detail concerns about proposed Oakwood Hills power plant

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 11:50 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 6:57 a.m. CDT

CRYSTAL LAKE – The Environmental Defenders of McHenry County reiterated concerns about the proposed power plant in Oakwood Hills on Thursday and called for the inclusion of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

During its bimonthly meeting, members discussed concerns including potential air pollution emissions, water usage and the need for an independent regional assessment of how the project would affect the larger surrounding areas from CMAP.

Nancy Williamson, of the Silver and Sleepy Hollow Creeks Watershed Coalition, has researched the emission numbers power plant developers have estimated the facility would produce and said she was concerned it would weaken the county’s air quality.

McHenry County is one of 11 in Illinois with “non-attainment status,” meaning the county exceeds particulate matter levels set by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Developers said the 430-megawatt, natural gas plant would produce 25 tons per year of particulate matter, 40 tons per year of nitrogen oxides and three tons per year of sulfur dioxide. The nitrogen oxide numbers could be more, according to the American Public Power Association, which said emissions are uncontrolled during startup periods.

Williamson said the numbers are even more concerning because of all the water vapor that will be produced through the 1.5 million gallons of water per day the plant would use. She cited a Stanford University study that concluded that water vapor particles are more deadly and increased toxicity.

“We want to base our position on the science,” said Nancy Schietzelt, president of the Environmental Defenders. “We want to learn as much as we can and what we’ve discovered is concerning.”

Schietzelt said she appreciated developers’ efforts to attempt at energy savings and to address some environmental concerns, even calling the plans for 100 percent of the water supply to come from wastewater treatment facilities an “encouraging thought.”

But she said the numbers still show the project would be a drain on the area as the water that would be used in the plant from treatment facilities could be treated and put back into the natural water system.

“The need to protect our water resources and air quality trumps every other aspect that we have to consider about this proposal,” said Schietzelt, who also wondered whether an existing coal plant could be converted to a gas plant as is being done in Joliet.

While members said the numbers show the plant would hurt Oakwood Hills, they still called for an independent assessment of how it could affect the region.

Dawn Thompson, associate planner at CMAP, was in attendance and said the agency would like to conduct a study but needs a letter from Oakwood Hills signed by village president Melanie Funk.

Defender member Bruce Wallace said he believes some efforts have been made in the village to secure a study from CMAP. Funk was not immediately available for comment.

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