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Wyoming Plan Promises More Coal Pollution

Date
January 14, 2013
Contact
Jeremy Nichols (303) 437-7663
In This Release
Climate + Energy
Monday, January 14, 2013
Wyoming Plan Promises More Coal Pollution

Guardians Files Suit Over EPA’s Failure to Meet Clean Air Act
Contact: Jeremy Nichols (303) 437-7663

Wyoming—The skiesof Wyoming and its neighboring states stand to be stained by more sulfur undera plan approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, spurring WildEarthGuardians to file suit in an effort to compel the agency to comply with theClean Air Act.

“Just like sulfur, this plan stinks,” said Jeremy Nichols,Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “Far from protecting clean air, itactually allows more sulfur dioxide pollution from the state’s coal-fired powerplants, putting the West’s most cherished landscapes and countless communitiesat risk.”

The suit, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10thCircuit in Denver, challenges the Environmental Protection Agency’s December12, 2012 approval of a plan that was supposed to reduce sulfur dioxideemissions from coal-fired power plants in order to curb haze pollution in theAmerican West. In actuality, theplan allows even more air pollution to be released than these plants arecurrently emitting.

The EPA’s approach relied on a “milestone,” or cap on sulfurdioxide emissions. That cappresumed that coal burning power plants, including 13 coal burning units inWyoming, emit at a rate of 0.15 pounds for every million Btus of heat input(essentially a measure of coal consumption). However, power plants in Wyoming are not only alreadyemitting at rates far below the 0.15 presumption, but often can achieve evenlower rates.

Clickhere to see a chart showing the differences between EPA’s presumed emissionrates, current emission rates, and emission rates that are achievable.

An example of this is with the Jim Bridger power plant insouthern Wyoming, which is owned and operated by Rocky Mountain Power, asubsidiary of PacifiCorp. Inprevious assessments, the company itself determined that the plant couldachieve an emission rate of 0.10 pounds per million Btus of heat input, a 33%lower rate than what EPA presumed.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA’s cap is supposed toachieve emission reductions that are better than the “best available retrofittechnology.” An expert reportprepared by a coalition of conservation and health organizations estimates thatif best available retrofit technology was utilized at Wyoming coal-fired powerplants, sulfur dioxide emissions would be reduced by more than 10,000 tonsbelow the EPA’s estimate, about a 1/3 greater reduction in pollution. These reductions could be achievedthrough the use of scrubbers, which are already installed at most coal-firedpower plants.

Clickhere to download the conservation and health coalition’s expert report (seetables 12 and 15) and clickhere to download a table illustrating the differences between EPA’s cap andachievable emission reductions.

“EPA’s plan defies reality and defies what is necessary tosafeguard our clean air,” said Nichols. “This is an opportunity to make significantly more progress in restoringclear skies in the West that EPA squandered.”

According to the EPA, sulfur dioxide is not only a poisonousgas that can lead toa number of respiratory conditions, but it also creates particulate matterpollution, acid rain, and haze. Nationally, 75% of all sulfur dioxide emissions are generated bycoal-fired power plants.

The EPA’s “milestone” approach to reducing sulfur dioxideemissions is being applied in the states of New Mexico and Utah as well. EPA presumed inflated sulfur dioxideemission rates from coal-fired power plants in those states as well. Estimates indicate that overall, sulfurdioxide pollution could be reduced by nearly 20,000 tons if EPA’s cap reflectedachievable emission rates.

WildEarth Guardians’ suit will challenge the validity ofEPA’s cap and the agency’s claim that its approach to limiting sulfur dioxidepollution will be better than the “best available retrofit technology.” Under the Clean Air Act,challenges to EPA decision are filed directly with federal appeals courts. The 10th Circuit Court ofAppeals is likely to issue a ruling on the lawsuit within a year.

 

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“Just like sulfur, this plan stinks,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “Far from protecting clean air, it actually allows more sulfur dioxide pollution from the state’s coal-fired power plants, putting the West’s most cherished landscapes and countless communities at risk.”
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