LANDER — A federal proposal to accelerate the reduction of air pollution from coal-fired power plants in Wyoming has drawn strong opinions from both sides of the issue.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a regional haze management plan for the state. The plan addresses parts of the federal Clean Air Act not implemented in Wyoming and is long overdue, said Shannon Anderson with the Powder River Basin Resource Council, a conservation group.
Haze is produced primarily from the pollutants nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.
While the state has implemented its own recommendations for dealing with haze created by power plants, the EPA’s plan calls for additional controls to limit pollutants at some facilities, said Steven Dietrich, air quality administrator with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.
“We’re still looking at what those differences mean,” Dietrich said, noting the DEQ is working on a response to the EPA.
Gov. Matt Mead’s office is also reviewing the plan and talking with the DEQ, said Renny MacKay, communications director.
The EPA’s plan exempts some 1960s and ‘70s coal-burning power plants from modernizing with selective catalytic reduction pollution controls, which are similar to converters on cars that keep avoidable pollution out of the air, according to a media release from the Powder River Basin Resource Council.
“Wyoming is a national leader in coal production, but we shouldn’t be a leader in coal pollution,” Anderson said in the release.
The group specifically named PacifiCorp plants that need upgrading, including Jim Bridger near Rock Springs, Naughton near Kemmerer, Wyodak near Gillette and Dave Johnston near Glenrock — which would be required to install additional pollution controls under the EPA plan.
The release said the older plants are running with minimum pollution-control retrofits and don’t protect air quality.
It also said plants in Wyoming emit more than 40,000 tons of nitrogen oxide each year, and selective catalytic reduction technology could remove up to 36,000 tons.
PacifiCorp officials are reviewing the EPA’s actions, company spokesman David Eskelsen said in an email. The EPA’s proposal would add environmental compliance costs to plants like Jim Bridger, he said.
The state of Wyoming’s recommendation requires PacifiCorp to install controls for nitrogen oxide at four Jim Bridger units in 2015, 2016, 2021 and 2022. The EPA’s plan accelerates the installation of the controls, which would have to be completed by fall 2017, Eskelsen said.
The EPA proposal also requires the installation of additional emissions control equipment at the Wyodak and Dave Johnston unit 3 plants, plus low-nitrogen oxide burners at Dave Johnston units 1 and 2, he said.
Additional emissions controls were installed on Naughton unit 1 this year and unit 2 in 2011, and the company proposed to convert Naughton unit 3 to natural gas fuel in response to the state’s plan, Eskelsen said.
PacifiCorp has already worked closely with state agencies to develop and implement required emission reduction projects totaling $1.2 billion, he said.
The EPA’s proposal concerns the company because it goes “well beyond the requirements of the Regional Haze Rule” and also requires an “unreasonably aggressive time frame” for PacifiCorp to add the controls, Eskelsen wrote. The company could raise rates to cover the costs of the upgrades, he said.
The company expects meeting all environmental requirements, including the regional haze rules, will cost $1 billion in emissions controls in coming years.
Eskelsen said the EPA is evaluating alternatives that would allow PacifiCorp to maintain the schedule recommended by the state for emissions control installation.
The EPA’s plan is expected to be finalized in the fall.