DeWitt: Proposed coal plant sparks debate in Jamesville

Controversy continues over the proposed coal gasification plant within the town of DeWitt and members from the Jamesville Positive Action Committee are fired up.

DeWitt residents were hit with big news back in December when they heard Empire SynFuel, a company led by New York City entrepreneur Adam Victor, proposed a facility to convert coal to natural gas at the former Alpha Portland Cement factory site, south of Rock Cut Road in Jamesville.

If the project comes to pass, up to 10,000 tons of coal per day is capable of being transformed into natural gas for use in homes, businesses or power plants.

Each day, a freight train with 100 rail cars would transport coal from Pennsylvania or West Virginia to Jamesville. The coal would be unloaded in an enclosed structure, then deposited into 10 40-foot-high gasifiers, which would break the coal down chemically into synthesis gas, composed of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Further processes would remove mercury, sulfur, carbon dioxide and other contaminates.

Ultimately, the synthetic gas would be converted into methane, a substitute natural gas, and pumped through gas mains to a gas pipeline approximately two miles away.

For and against

While there are residents who favor the idea of having a new energy source in town, there are others who would rather see it elsewhere. Vicki Baker, president of JAM-PAC, is among those in opposition.

"Why in God's name would you take 110 rail cars and bring coal from West Virginia and Appalachia and process it here," Baker said. "And then they're going to vent the carbon dioxide which is one of the major global warming issues of the time. It doesn't make sense to us and we're extremely concerned."

"Next to the mouth of a coal mine is where this project should take place," Baker said. "Not in Jamesville, New York where there are no coal mines."

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