How to Get Dirty Old Coal Plants to Disappear: Turn Them Into Parks, Waterfront Spaces


Image via Potomac River Green

There are a number of ways to try to shut down a coal plant: Citizen petitions, grassroots movements, legislative maneuvering, and big, banner-laden activist protests. Usually it takes a combination of all of the above before a governor or mayor is spurred into action.

But, as Grist's Dave Roberts points out, there's another approach that may be even more effective as a bargaining tool: Transform it from a rusty, dilapidated hunk of junk into a place that people want to hang out. To do so, outline a distinct vision for an alternative plan that's better for the economy, better for for public health, and better for the climate. And that's exactly what a group called American Clean Skies Foundation did in order to help make the case for closing down a dirty, 60-year old coal plant in Virginia.

Here's Roberts:

[ACSF] just released a plan called Potomac River Green, which would replace the plant with a residential and commercial development, a revitalized waterfront, and (the kicker) an energy museum/education center, all of it built to LEED standards.

The demolition, remediation, and development would cost around $450 million but would produce myriad social and economic benefits, as detailed in this technical report [PDF]. Whereas the power plant supports about 150 jobs, the development project would create a total of 2,205 new jobs. Between 2015 and 2024, the project would drive over $1.53 billion in new direct spending in the region and boost city and state tax revues by $27 million. That's quite an improvement on an ugly, soot-belching eyesore parked on the shore.

Indeed. The key part here is providing residents with a powerful visual demonstration of an alternative to an ugly, polluting crap-pile. As a bonus, it frees up an entire district for high-rent residential development, since everyone wants to move into nice, walkable cities these days. This is precisely the kind of thinking we need to be embracing to get the public on board with ditching the dirty status quo power generation.

What would you rather live next to? A nasty old 1950s coal plant? Or this:


Thought so.

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