NESQUEHONING, Pa. - A little known Pennsylvania industry is hoping to shine in Harrisburg's legislative spotlight.
"It's the only reason why we are here burning this stuff," said John Burznski while holding a bag of coal refuse.
Coal refuse is an environmentally harmful left over bi-product of coal mining. The Panther Creek Energy Plant was built solely to burn and get rid of it 25 years ago.
Plant manager John Burnznki says the Nesquehoning Borough, Carbon County facility is down from 40 employees to 18. The result he says of only being open 39 days this summer. It's not set to run again until January.
"With market conditions because of the price of natural gas, which is driving electricity pricing, which is what we live on, it's a tough go and reason why we had to shut down," he said.
However Panther Creek and the other 13 coal refuse generating plants are getting help from Harrisburg. A $7.5 million dollar tax credit went into effect this year, bumped up to $10 million next year but that's it. There are currently no plans to extend it.
A mammoth pile outside the Panther Creek facility will only last about a month. So how much is left in coal country? The company says if running constantly there's enough scattered around to last 25 to 30 years.
The state's 14 plants have cleaned and removed 200 million tons it, restoring more than 1,200 miles of polluted streams and reclaiming more than 7,000 acres.
"Environmental reclamation is key for economic opportunity and protecting our environment," said Pennsylvania Senator Democrat John Yudichak.
The industry, which is classified as renewable energy in Pennsylvania, generates more than $740 million for the state annually
Yudichak is pushing to not only extend the tax credit but also add coal refuse as a renewable fuel at the federal level.
"We are going to make the case for both Washington and Harrisburg that this industry is vital to environmental protection, renewable energy production and jobs," he said.
If the credit goes up in flames, Panther Creek says it will have to close, leaving tax payers to foot the cleanup bill..
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