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Guardians Calls on EPA to Overturn Illegal Coal Permits in Wyoming

January 30, 2012
Jeremy Nichols (303) 573-4898 x 1303
In This Release
Climate + Energy

Monday, January 30, 2012
Guardians Calls on EPA to Overturn Illegal Coal Permits in Wyoming

Six Coal-fired Power Plants and Coal Mine Skirting Clean Air Act
Contact: Jeremy Nichols (303) 573-4898 x 1303

Wyoming—Citingrisks to public health and the environment, WildEarth Guardians today called onthe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to overturn illegal air pollutionpermits for six coal-fired power plants and a coal mine in the Powder RiverBasin Wyoming.

“Coal-fired power plants are the largest of air pollution inthis country and the dirtiest form of energy,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarthGuardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “All we’re doing is calling on the EPA to either fix theseillegal permits or stop these plants from polluting.”

The power plants and coal mine are concentrated east of Gillette,Wyoming at a site called the “Neil Simpson Energy Complex.” This complex consists of six coal-firedpower plants—Neil Simpson I, Neil Simpson II, Wygen I, Wygen II, Wygen III, andWyodak—that collectively have the capacity of 742 megawatts. These plants are fed by the nearbyWyodak coal mine, a large strip mine in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, thenation’s largest coal producing region.

Together, the coal-fired power plants and coal mine annuallyrelease more than 9,635 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions—as much as 504,000passenger vehicles—and more than 1,700 tons of microscopic particulate matterand soot.

In a petition filed with EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson,WildEarth Guardians cited the fact that air pollution permits issued by theWyoming Department of Environmental Quality failed to comply with the federalClean Air Act. The petition calledon the EPA to order the State of Wyoming to fix the permits or face revocation.

At issue is that the Wyoming Department of EnvironmentalQuality has allowed the coal-fired power plants and the coal mine tocollectively skirt the safeguards of the Clean Air Act. Rather than regulating the Neil SimpsonEnergy complex as a single source of air pollution, the State has insteadregulated each coal-fired power plant and the coal mine separately.

The Clean Air Act requires sources of air pollution that areadjacent to be regulated together as a single source of air pollution. Far from a trivial requirement of theClean Air Act, because the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality hasrefused to regulate the Neil Simpson Energy Complex as a single source of airpollution, the coal-fired power plants and the coal mine have avoided morestringent Clean Air Act safeguards.

Notably, although the Clean Air Act requires that oldersources of air pollution make air pollution control upgrades once they aremodified, several of the coal-fired power plants, as well as the coal mine, atthe Neil Simpson Energy Complex have not been required to make upgrades, evenas new coal-fired power plants have been built.

“This petition promises greater transparency, greatercontrol of air pollution, and exactly the kind of oversight that has beensorely lacking,” said Nichols. “Clean air has to come before dirty energy here in the West if we haveany chance of safeguarding our lands, our communities, and our climate.”

WildEarth Guardians has called on the EPA Administrator torespond to the petition within 60 days.

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