The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze plan that would increase regulations on coal-fired power plants is an assault on Wyoming coal, Joe Kissack said.
“Really, it’s about our way of life,” said Kissack, a resident of Campbell County.
Kissack was one of several dozen people who testified at an EPA hearing on the regional haze plan. Most opposed the federal government’s plan to limit nitrogen oxide emissions that are blamed for creating the haze that at times obscures the Wyoming sky.
The EPA wants to clear haze over national parks and wilderness areas, with the goal of returning such areas to natural visibility conditions by 2064, according to a fact sheet the EPA distributed at Friday’s hearing at the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission building in Casper.
In the West, the distance people can see, called the visual range, has decreased on average from
140 miles to between 35 and
90 miles, according to the fact sheet.
The state has proposed a plan to regulate haze. The EPA has accepted some of Wyoming’s plan, such as its proposals on particulate matter, said Todd Parfitt, director of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.
However, the state and feds disagree over regulating nitrogen oxides. The feds want coal-fired power plants to install more expensive technology than the state, Parfitt said.
In addition to the capital costs of installing the technology favored by the federal government — which power plant owners have estimated would cost hundreds of millions more than the state’s favored technology — there will be increased operating and maintenance costs associated with the EPA-favored technology. Parfitt said it will cost Wyoming power plant owners $60 million a year. Over 20 years, that’s $1.2 billion, he said.
While the federal government believes its plan will reduce haze more than the state’s, Parfitt said the extra costs do not justify the difference.
“By the year 2022, the EPA and state plan have near identical results,” he said.
He said the federal government’s plan will not improve health or affect climate change. There are other federal programs that attack those issues, Parfitt said.
Power plant owners, who said they favored the state plan over the federal plan, said the extra costs will be passed onto ratepayers.
The EPA-favored technology in three units at the Laramie River Station in Wheatland could cost about $750 million — about $500 million more than the state-favored technology, said Mary Miller, a spokeswoman for Bismarck, N.D.-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative, which operates the plant. Basin Electric hired a consultant to review the potential costs.
For Salt Lake City-based Rocky Mountain Power, the EPA’s preferences affect two units at the Naughton Plant near Kemmerer, two units at the Dave Johnston Plant in Glenrock and one unit at the Wyodak Plant in Gillette, said Cathy Woollums, chief environmental council of Davenport, Iowa-based MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., the parent company of Rocky Mountain Power. The federal government’s preference will cost $300 million more than the state’s, she said.
Pete Obermueller, legislative director for U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., likened the extra costs on ratepayers to a regressive tax.
“It’s not the upper-income individuals who
will suffer,” he said. “It is the middle and
But Maria Katherman thanked the EPA for a having stricter proposal than the state.
She ranches northwest of Douglas and said her place is downwind from the Dave Johnston Plant, which she said was a factor in both of her sons having asthma.
Although the regional haze plan is to protect parks and wilderness areas – which are nowhere near her ranch – she supports it.
“I would gladly pay triple my electric bill
if it meant my sons wouldn’t have asthma,” she said. “I pay more for my sons’ asthma medication than I’ll ever pay for electricity.”