Wabash River Generating Station

The Wabash River power plant began operating in 1995. It can generate 292 megawatts of electricity, 262 of which are sent to the power grid, while the other 30 are used for plant operations. Their generating capacity makes them one of the globe’s biggest single-train gasification combined cycle facilities. The Wabash River plant uses the unique IGCC process, which stands for Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle. The IGCC uses a synthesis gas for powering a gas turbine. This process generates waste heat, which is passed onto a steam turbine. The capturing of this waste energy maximizes the plant’s efficiency.

IGCC transforms coal into gas, then removing the impurities prior to combustion and lowering emissions of sulfur dioxide, particulates, and mercury. The efficiency of IGCC is far greater than using conventional crushed coal. Due to more complete combustion, coal gasification excels in all categories of energy efficiency and environmental control.

With headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, Duke Energy is the operator and owner of the Wabash River plant. Duke Energy operates and owns a combined capacity of thirty-six thousand megawatts distributed to 4 million consumers. Duke Energy and its subsidiaries serve 47,000 square miles and maintain 106,000 miles of power lines. Their main method for electricity generation involves gas, coal, and oil. However, half of its capacity in South and North Carolina is generated from nuclear plants.

Duke Energy and Duke Power, its subsidiary, each share a remarkably poor environmental record. When the Environmental Protection Agency tried to force Duke to abide by the Clean Air Act in 1999, Duke challenged them in court. The challenge was, at the beginning, successful, in spite of the assertion by environmental groups and activists that they were merely using legal loopholes. In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled against Duke.

In 2002, Duke was labeled the 46th greatest air pollution producer in the United States. It released toxic chemicals totaling about 36 million pounds per year. Among these are hydrochloric and sulfuric acid, hydrogen fluoride, and chromium compounds. By 2008, Duke had risen to the 13th largest polluter, having exceeded twice the amount of its yearly toxic chemical release, which rose to 80 million pounds annually.

The Wabash River facility was among countless mills, worksites, factories, and power plants that may have used asbestos to act as a flame-resistant insulating material. Though asbestos did indeed offer heat protection, long-term exposure to it has also resulted in serious illnesses, including mesothelioma and asbestosis. Former and current employees of Duke facilities that were built before 1980 stand a strong chance of suffering from these conditions, especially mesothelioma, which carries a long latency period and often doesn’t appear for several decades.