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Wise County Power Plant Permit Process Leads To Lower Emission Standards

July 11, 2008

By Debra McCown, Bristol Herald Courier, Va.

Jul. 11–ABINGDON, Va. — While a new coal-fired power plant under construction in Wise County will add another local pollution source, the permitting process for it has spurred emissions reductions at an existing power plant nearby.

Appalachian Power’s Clinch River Power Plant in Russell County, Va., must reduce its emissions after air-quality computer modeling showed potential for a problem, said company representatives and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality officials.

John Shepelwich, a company spokesman, said the plant will reduce emissions by about one-third after a consent order was issued last month by the DEQ that requires reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions.

“There was some odeling done, air modeling that was done in Dominion’s air permit request, and we basically saw that there was, right above our plant … that there could be the potential for a non-attainment for sulfur dioxide directly above our plant,” Shepelwich said.

“Working with DEQ, we came to a solution of blending low-sulfur coal there at the plant site … and that is designed to cut or maintain a low level of sulfur dioxide emissions from the plant over the long haul.”

Shepelwich said changing the plant’s fuel mix will cut plant emissions from 28,000 tons annually to 19,000 tons.

By contrast, the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center — the 585-megawatt plant under construction in nearby Wise County by Dominion Virginia Power — will be allowed to emit just over 600 tons per year, meaning a net decrease in sulfur dioxide emissions for the region.

While installing the $10.3 million fuel-mixing facility, with completion expected this year, the company is required to monitor air quality in four locations and reduce electric generation if pollution thresholds are reached.

“The monitors would really tell us if there were any issues with the NAAQS [National Ambient Air Quality Standards],” said Crystal Bazyk, air compliance manager for DEQ in Abingdon. “We certainly have measures that we would implement if they are in violation of the standards.”

The order is the latest in a series of events requiring tighter emissions controls on the 50-year-old coal-fired power plant, which has been listed among the state’s top polluters.

Bazyk said several programs have been put in place in recent years to reduce emissions of various pollutants.

Appalachian Power is also subject to the requirements of a nearly $80 million settlement reached last fall between its parent company, American Electric Power, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The settlement calls for the company to cut more than 800,000 tons of air pollutants annually at 16 power plants in five states.

Among the requirements, which will save $32 billion in health costs per year, according to a news release from the agency, are cutting sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions at the Clinch River plant.

Both pollutants contribute to health problems and acid rain, according to an EPA Web site.

The settlement specifies that the plant must reduce its emissions of sulfur dioxide to 21,700 tons a year by Jan. 1, 2010, and to 16,300 tons by Jan. 1, 2015.

The penalty for exceeding the limits is $40,000 per ton plus the loss of the plant’s sulfur dioxide allowance by twice the tonnage by which the limit is exceeded.

Shepelwich said the company will spend about $10 million to install “selective non-catalytic reduction control equipment” by the end of next year to reduce nitrogen oxide.

Another set of emissions control regulations that will affect both the Clinch River and Virginia City plants also is on the horizon.

U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-9th, says that while climate control legislation is not likely this year, it is expected soon.

“We’re going to pass in Congress a mandatory program for greenhouse gas emissions,” Boucher said.

“It will probably happen during the next two years, and those controls will become progressively more rigid over time and require that emissions be reduced by greater amounts over time. … All the plants across the country, over time, are going to have to install a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”

dmccown@bristolnews.com| (276) 791-0701

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Copyright (c) 2008, Bristol Herald Courier, Va.

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