While other utilities are saying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (Utility MACT) rule may force coal plant shutdowns or expensive environmental retrofits, Idaho Power looks to be in good shape when it comes to complying with the rule.
Idaho Power parent IDACORP (NYSE:IDA) said in its Feb. 22 annual Form 10-K report that in December 2011, the EPA finalized the Utility MACT Rule, also known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule. The final regulation replaces the former Clean Air Mercury Rule. The final regulation sets numeric emission limitations on coal-fired power units for total particulate matter (a surrogate for non-mercury hazardous air pollutants (HAPS)), hydrogen chloride, and mercury. In addition, the final regulation imposes a work practice standard for organic HAPs, including dioxins and furans.
Mercury continuous emission monitoring systems have been installed on all of the coal-fired units at the coal-fired Jim Bridger, Boardman and Valmy plants, which are co-owned by Idaho Power with various utilities. Idaho Power is in the process of determining how these regulations will impact the Bridger, Boardman and Valmy plants and what additional controls, if any, will need to be installed in order to comply with the regulations. “Based on its evaluation as of the date of this report, Idaho Power does not foresee any plant closures due to the Utility MACT Rule and expects related compliance costs will not be substantial,” the Form 10-K added.
Another air program with potential impacts on its coal plants is the regional haze Best Available Retrofit Technology (RH BART) rule. Under federal regional haze rules, coal-fired utility boilers are subject to RH BART if they were built between 1962 and 1977 and affect any Class I areas. This includes all four units at the Jim Bridger plant and the Boardman plant. The two units at the Valmy plant were constructed after 1977 and are not, as of this point, subject to the federal regional haze rule.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) have conducted assessments of the Jim Bridger and Boardman plants under an RH BART process. These states have also evaluated the need for additional controls at Jim Bridger and Boardman to achieve reasonable progress toward a long term strategy beyond RH BART to reduce regional haze in Class I areas to natural conditions by the year 2064, the Form 10-K noted.
In December 2009, the WDEQ issued a RH BART permit to co-owner PacifiCorp for the Jim Bridger plant. The WDEQ determined that low NOx burners with over-fire air is RH BART for NOx for all four Bridger units and that RH BART is not required for SO2 for Jim Bridger. As part of the WDEQ’s long term strategy for regional haze, the permit requires that PacifiCorp install selective catalytic reduction (SCR) for NOx control at Jim Bridger Units 3-4 by Dec. 31, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2016, respectively, and submit an application by Jan. 15, 2015, to install add-on NOx controls at Jim Bridger Units 1-2 by Dec. 31, 2023.
PacifiCorp is already installing low NOx burners and SO2 scrubber upgrades at the Jim Bridger plant, IDACORP said. The SO2 scrubber upgrade project has been completed on all four Jim Bridger units. Idaho Power expects to spend about $2m in 2012 to complete these projects. Idaho Power’s estimated share of the cost to install SCR on Jim Bridger Units 3-4 is $120m. Installation of SCR also could require extended maintenance outages. Design and cost estimates for add-on NOx controls at Jim Bridger Units 1 and 2 are not yet available.
In February 2010, PacifiCorp filed an administrative appeal of the Jim Bridger RH BART permit with the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council (WEQC). PacifiCorp argued that the WDEQ lacked the legal and technical basis to require the SCR and add-on NOx controls. In November 2010, PacifiCorp and the WDEQ signed a settlement agreement under which PacifiCorp has agreed to install SCR, alternative add-on NOx controls, or otherwise achieve a 0.07 lb/mmBtu 30-day rolling average NOx emission rate by Dec. 31, 2015, for Unit 3, and Dec. 31, 2016, for Unit 4.
In addition, PacifiCorp has agreed to install SCR, alternative add-on NOx controls, or otherwise achieve a 0.07 lb/mmBtu 30-day rolling average NOx emission rate by Dec. 31, 2021, for Unit 2, and Dec. 31, 2022, for Unit 1 at Jim Bridger. The settlement agreement is conditioned on the EPA ultimately approving those portions of the Wyoming Regional Haze State Implementation Plan (RH SIP) that are consistent with the terms of the settlement agreement.
In light of the settlement agreement, PacifiCorp received a revised RH BART permit for Jim Bridger in November 2010. In September 2011, a federal district court in Colorado approved a consent decree in the case of Wildearth Guardians v. Jackson pursuant to which the EPA must either propose to approve the Wyoming RH SIP or propose an alternate Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) by April 15, 2012. In addition, the EPA must either grant final approval to the Wyoming RH SIP or finalize an RH FIP for Wyoming by Oct. 15, 2012.
At Boardman, where Idaho Power has a 10% ownership stake, operator Portland General Electric has worked out a deal with state and federal regulators to shut the plant by the end of 2020 and install certain environmental controls in the meantime. The plant would also go to lower-sulfur coal in 2015.