Cane Run Station

From Global Energy Monitor

Cane Run Station is an operating power station of at least 807-megawatts (MW) in Louisville, Jefferson, Kentucky, United States with multiple units, some of which are not currently operating.


Table 1: Project-level location details

Plant name Location Coordinates (WGS 84)
Cane Run Station Louisville, Jefferson, Kentucky, United States 38.183275, -85.888811 (exact)

The map below shows the exact location of the power station.

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Unit-level coordinates (WGS 84):

  • Unit 4, Unit 5, Unit 6: 38.183275, -85.888811
  • Unit CR7: 38.1831, -85.8892

Project Details

Table 2: Unit-level details

Unit name Status Fuel(s) Capacity (MW) Technology CHP Start year Retired year
Unit 4 retired coal - bituminous 163.2 subcritical 1962 2015
Unit 5 retired coal - bituminous 209.4 subcritical 1966 2015
Unit 6 retired coal - bituminous 272 subcritical 1969 2015
Unit CR7 operating[1] fossil gas - natural gas[1] 807[1] combined cycle[1] 2015[1]

CHP is an abbreviation for Combined Heat and Power. It is a technology that produces electricity and thermal energy at high efficiencies. Coal units track this information in the Captive Use section when known.

Table 3: Unit-level ownership and operator details

Unit name Owner
Unit 4 Louisville Gas & Electric Co [100.0%]
Unit 5 Louisville Gas & Electric Co [100.0%]
Unit 6 Louisville Gas & Electric Co [100.0%]
Unit CR7 Louisville Gas & Electric Co [100.0%]

Coal-to-gas conversion

In Fall 2010, LG&E said it may shut down the 57-year-old Cane Run power plant or convert it to natural gas in response to tightening environmental regulations.[2]

In September 2011, LG&E said in filings with the Kentucky Public Service Commission that it plans to replace its Cane Run coal plant with a 640 MW natural gas-fired plant by 2016, to be built at the same site. LGE and Kentucky Utilities reportedly also asked the commission to approve the purchase of Bluegrass Generation Co’s 495 MW natural gas-fired power plant, to replace their Green River Generating Station and Tyrone Generating Station.[3] On May 3, 2012, both the gas conversion and purchase of the Bluegrass gas plant were approved by the Kentucky Public Service Commission.[4]

The power station was shut down in June 2015, and replaced with a US$540 million, 650-megawatt natural gas combined cycle plant.[5] As of 2022, the nameplate capacity of the combined cycle unit is 807 MW.[6]

Carbon Capture Research Project

The carbon capture research project is funded primarily by a $5.8 million grant from the Department of Energy issued in 2022. Kentucky’s first natural gas combined-cycle (NGCC) generating unit – Cane Run 7 – is one of just two NGCCs in the country awarded DOE research funding. The project entails a front-end engineering design (FEED) study to evaluate the feasibility and approximate cost to pilot and deploy the University of Kentucky-developed carbon-capture technology on CR7 to capture at least 95% of carbon dioxide from gases exiting the unit’s stacks. CR7 is representative of NGCC power plants in the Midwest and Midsouth where geographical storage for carbon dioxide is limited. The results of the CR7 project are expected to yield valuable information relevant to retrofitting a carbon-capture process on other NGCC units[7].

The study will lay the groundwork for a full-scale, 10-to-20-megawatt carbon capture sequestration pilot unit at Cane Run. If the unit is deployed as proposed by the group’s FEED study, it would be the first of its kind in the world. The FEED study will take place from now through mid-2024 and involves pre-FEED research by the University of Kentucky focused on the project scope and design among other factors; the FEED itself conducted by Bechtel; commercial, environmental and economic assessments performed by EPRI; and a life-cycle assessment performed by the University of Michigan[7].

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 3,853,535 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 17,122 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 6,791 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 96 lb.

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Cane Run Station

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[8] The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma-related episodes and asthma-related emergency room visits, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, peneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal-fired power plants. Fine particle pollution is formed from a combination of soot, acid droplets, and heavy metals formed from sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and soot. Among those particles, the most dangerous are the smallest (smaller than 2.5 microns), which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities.

The table below estimates the death and illness attributable to the Cane Run Station. Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[9]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Cane Run Station

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 23 $170,000
Heart attacks 35 $3,800,000
Asthma attacks 380 $20,000
Hospital admissions 16 $390,000
Chronic bronchitis 14 $6,300,000
Asthma ER visits 23 $8,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Coal Waste

Kentucky is the country's biggest producer of coal burning wastes, according to the EPA. Indiana and Kentucky also are the nation's top two states for coal ash ponds, with 53 and 44, respectively.[2]

"High Hazard" Surface Impoundment

Cane Run Station's Ash Pond surface impoundment is on the EPA's official June 2009 list of Coal Combustion Residue (CCR) Surface Impoundments with High Hazard Potential Ratings. The rating applies to sites at which a dam failure would most likely cause loss of human life, but does not assess of the likelihood of such an event.[10]

According to an Alternet article by Sierra Club's Bruce Niles, the oldest of these coal ash ponds was built in the 1970s, but there are no records of any monitoring of any pond until 2005. The largest of these ponds, designated as “high hazard,” means that a dam failure like the 2008 TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill would probably result in loss of life. Ash in this pond looms 20 feet over the containment berm, 50 yards from homes and within 350 yards of the Ohio River.[11]

September 2010: LGE proposes impoundment expansion

As of September 2010, Louisville Gas and Electric is currently seeking permits to “expand” the pond at the Cane Run coal plant by constructing a new 5.7 million cubic yard, 14-story-tall pond some 1,500 feet from the existing one. What little data can be obtained about the existing ponds shows that they have been leaking sulfates into local groundwater. Neither the coal plant nor the state government has made public any tests of the toxic heavy metals found in coal ash, including arsenic, selenium, and mercury. The EPA has found that people living near coal ash ponds have a risk of cancer greater than that of smoking a pack of cigarettes every day.[11] In 2009, the plant produced 650,000 pounds of coal-burning waste.[2]

Nearby Riverside Gardens residents will testify at the upcoming EPA coal ash hearing in Louisville on September 28, 2010.[11]

Coal ash found in Claremore Acres

In February 2011, it was reported that testing by the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District had found evidence of coal ash in the Claremore Acres neighborhood, near the Cane Run Station. The Kentucky Division of Waste Management, which regulates the dump, is conducting its own investigation. The air district's enforcement manager, Terri Phelps, said district regulations require reasonable precautions to be taken to prevent particulate matter from becoming airborne and blowing beyond the boundaries of a work site. District regulations allow the agency to levy fines of up to $10,000 per day per violation, Phelps said. Offenders can also be required to take corrective actions, she added. Some residents said they believe LG&E officials know their plant causes ash and soot problems because the company has sometimes provided them with vouchers to pay for car washes.[2]

The Cane Run ash pond has been ranked a “high hazard” because of potential damage that it could do to neighboring homes across Cane Run Road, raising concerns over whether the levee broke and ash leaked out. In March 2011, LG&E settled a pollution nuisance lawsuit in U.S. District Court with some of its neighbors to the northeast in Riverside Gardens, in a confidential settlement.[2]

More allegations of coal ash violations at Cane Run

In November 2011, Louisville Gas and Electric disputed sampling performed by the Louisville Metro Government that showed coal ash was present on homes near the company's Cane Run Station. Since the summer of 2010, LG&E produced results of two different coal ash types of tests, and the results were contradictory. In October 2011, Metro Government analyzed its own samples and found fly ash on a home that was washed only three weeks earlier. LG&E responded by releasing new data that suggested negligible quantities of ash. The company is allowed to emit a certain amount from its smokestacks, but the city said if dust poses a nuisance to an industry’s neighbors and limits their right to enjoy their property, the city can require the company to take remedial measures. Terri Phelps of the Air Pollution Control District says the agency stands by its results and will likely issue a notice of violation to LG&E.[12]

LG&E pays fine

On April 18, 2012, the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control Board unanimously approved an agreement that calls for the Louisville Gas and Electric Co. to pay $22,500 to settle violations involving blowing coal ash from its Cane Run power plant.[13]

Comparing Cane Run Ash Pond to TVA Kingston Ash Pond

In 2009, the webstie Ohio River Radio Consortium posted the following unsigned article comparing the Cane Run Station's fly ash pond and the Kingston Fossil Plant's fly ash pond, site of the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill:[14]

In a story I reported recently about how coal ash is handled in Kentucky, I mentioned both the December 2008 coal ash spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority plant in Tennessee and LG&E’s Cane Run plant coal ash pond here in Louisville. While they are both coal ash ponds, there are some pretty important differences between the two, which I thought I’d share.
First, the TVA plant was storing fly ash in the pond, in a kind of slurry, behind a tall dam wall. At Cane Run, the pond contains bottom ash. Fly ash is the powdery leftovers from burning coal; bottom ash is the sandy, heavier bits. Whereas fly ash slurry is a kind of goopy mixture, bottom ash settles in a pond. Experts believe it’s generally better to store fly ash in dry landfills as opposed to ponds. In Europe, the push is not to store any of it at all, but to reuse ash in cement and pavement. Also, the Cane Run pond’s dam walls are quite low, and the pond doesn’t hold nearly as much as the TVA plant.
So, the set-up at TVA spelled disaster. To get a sense of the size and impact of that spill, see these before and after aerial pictures.
However, it’s true the Cane Run pond is in a residential neighborhood, near a rail line, and on the Ohio River. For that reason, the state ranks it as a “high hazard” pond, requiring regular inspections of the dam walls and surrounding turf.All this means that a disaster like what happened at the TVA plant is highly unlikely at Cane Run, for anyone left wondering. But there are many coal-fired power plants in Kentucky, and that means there’s plenty of coal combustion waste – fly ash, bottom ash – being stored and land-filled at increasing rates.
There are also some innovative projects to try to reuse the ash. For example, at Western Kentucky Energy’s Coleman station in Hawesville, University of Kentucky researchers helped develop a process for recovering fly ash from ponds to extract the carbon and create a new fuel.

Citizen groups

Articles and Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Archived from the original on 12 June 2020. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 James Bruggers, "Neighbors of Cane Run plant worry about health impact of coal ash" Courier-Journal, April 19, 2011.
  3. "Three coal-fired power plants to be replaced by natural gas" Power Engineering, Sep. 15, 2011.
  4. "PSC OKs natural gas plant to replace coal-fired facility on Cane Run Road," IndyStar, May 4, 2012.
  5. "Sixty years of coal burning ends at LG&E plant," Courier Journal, July 7, 2015
  6. "Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860) - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)". Retrieved 2022-12-14.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "LG&E and KU, EPRI, University of Kentucky, begin industry-leading research". LG&E KU. March 31, 2023. Retrieved June 1, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  9. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  10. Coal waste
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Bruce Niles, "A Kentucky Community Surrounded by Coal Ash" AlterNet, Sep. 24, 2010.
  12. Erica Peterson, "LG&E Dismisses Metro Government Coal Ash Sampling; Releases New Data" WFPL News, November 1, 2011.
  13. James Bruggers, "LG&E agrees to pay fine, reduce blowing ash: Utility to pay $22,500, denies wrongdoing in coal ash case," The, April 19, 2012.
  14. "LG&E Cane Run Ash Pond Unlike TVA Pond That Failed," Ohio River Radio Consortium, February 7, 2009

Additional data

To access additional data, including interactive maps of the power stations, downloadable datases, and summary data, please visit the Global Coal Plant Tracker and the Global Oil and Gas Plant Tracker on the Global Energy Monitor website.