Friday, April 13, 2012

Should Power Consumers Finance Brownfield Remediation?

Environmental cleanup of a 220 acre East St. Louis site polluted with bauxite residue from 50 years of alumina production at Alcoa’s long abandoned plant at Missouri Avenue and 29th Street in the southern Illinois Mississippi River town would be partially financed by Ameren Illinois ratepayers under a bill pending in the Illinois House.  The proposed legislation, sponsored by Bellville Senator James Clayborne, would authorize Ameren to enter into a 20 year power supply contract with Brightfields Development LLC, which proposes to build a $65 million solar power array on the land after USEPA finishes a $24 million Superfund cleanup of the property.

Brightfields’ Managing Principal John Hanselman says a 20 year contract is required to obtain financing for the proposed solar array construction project. Wellesley, Massachusetts based Brightfields needs the above market power price commitment to proceed with redevelopment of the site. Sponsors of the legislation say that the added cost of only $0.30 per year per electricity customer would provide clean energy to meet peak demand in the E. St. Louis area, and generate 600 construction jobs, and 20 permanent jobs on completion of the project.

Development of the Alcoa site for uses involving construction of multi-story structures is not feasible because of the unsuitability of the soft bauxite waste to support building foundations. Other plans15.5 billion gallon Bill Young Resorvoir at Lithnia, Florida for redevelopment of the polluted site, which Alcoa abandoned in the 1950’s, have been proposed, and failed, over the intervening decades.

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