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Sink says Big Sandy plant will lay off 75% of workers by 2014;

LOUISA, Ky. -- Big Sandy Power plant manager Aaron Sink told Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce members today that his company will be forced to shut down half of the facility's production of electricity by 2014 and lay off nearly 100 of its 120 employees if changes are not made in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's new standards.

Sink, who has been at the Big Sandy facility for just over a year, said lack of time is the major reason his company cannot meet the standards. "We are totally committed to following the law and we intend to do that, but the EPA has created an unworkable timeline for our company to meet the clean air standards they have set," Sink said. 

A large crowd of area businessmen attended today's luncheon, sponsored by Wal-Mart of Louisa, to hear Sink explain the company's situation. After a short welcome speech by Shred All Documents president Tracy Syck, and a sponsor's welcome by Louisa Wal-Mart manager Bob Poole, SEKCOC president and CEO Brad Hall introduced Sink to the crowd gathered at the Louisa First Baptist Church. "I think we are all anxious to hear what Aaron has to say, so keep eating your lunch and we'll get started," quipped Hall.

Brad HallBrad HallMuch of the interest centered on the future of the AEP owned Big Sandy plant's use of coal mined in the region. 

Sink said the company will switch to natural gas and keep only about half of the 50 year old facility's electricity production. The use of coal will be dramatically reduced if not eliminated completely. "The economic impact on this area, especially Lawrence County, will be immense," Sink said. When you count the number of  employees, the thousands of dollars in local taxes that we pay, and the money we spend on other items here, you'll see a major difference in the local economy."

He said AEP has already installed $8 billion in scrubbers for their coal fired plants in the past decade and now the new regulations will force the company to spend another $6 - 8 billion to convert to natural gas. The region's coal industry will take a huge hit because AEP purchases vast amounts for the local plant. "What we need to do is get together and see if we can get the EPA to give our company more time to meet the new emission standards before all this happens," Sink said. "Call your legislators and ask them to act on behalf of eastern Kentucky."

Longtime Lawrence County businessman Harold Britton was on hand to hear Sink today. Longtime Lawrence County businessman Harold Britton was on hand to hear Sink today. Sink had a PowerPoint presentation showing the expected economic impact the EPA standards will have on Kentucky as well as neighboring states. He explained that the new plant at Big Sandy's current location five miles north of Louisa beside U.S. Rt. 23 will burn natural gas which may be purchased from any number of locations throughout the eastern United States. "And there will be about a one year total shutdown as we prepare for the switch meaning no production at all," Sink said. 

Many of Louisa's top business leaders attended the meeting and Hall told those present that SEKCOC is dedicated to improving the business climate in the entire region. He said the area must work together to achieve its economic goals. "This membership meeting today with Mr. Sink talking about one of your top concerns shows we are serious about it," Hall said.  "And the large crowd shows you are getting serious as well." He said Lawrence County already has 16 members with the newest being the Kentucky Farm Bureau offices in Louisa. "That's a great start since we only began this effort a few months ago," Hall added.

(Please see video of Sink's message to the Chamber members on the front page of today's Lazer )

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