PacifiCorp fights its way through regulatory haze

PacifiCorp is working its way through various clean-air initiatives and has projects ongoing to clean up some of its coal-fired emissions, with some of those projects to help with a recent regional haze situation in Utah and Wyoming, said PacifiCorp in its Feb. 27 annual Form 10-K report.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has initiated a regional haze program intended to improve visibility in designated federally protected areas. Some of PacifiCorp’s coal-fueled units in Utah and Wyoming meet the threshold applicability criteria to be eligible units under the Clean Air Visibility Rules. Utah submitted its most recent regional haze state implementation plan (SIP) amendments to EPA in 2011 and suggested that the emissions reduction projects planned by PacifiCorp are sufficient to meet its initial emissions reduction requirements.

In September 2011, PacifiCorp received a Section 114 request for information from the EPA Region 8 office requiring PacifiCorp to submit a five-factor best available retrofit technology analysis for the coal-fired Hunter Units 1-2 and Huntington plant in Utah within 30 days based on the EPA’s assertion that Utah failed to submit such an analysis. PacifiCorp responded to the request in November 2011 and indicated it would work with the Utah Division of Air Quality to complete the requested analysis which, based on a schedule proposed by Utah to the EPA, will be part of a process to conclude with a submittal to the EPA in February 2013.

Wyoming submitted its regional haze SIP to the EPA in January 2011. The EPA is currently under a consent decree to issue a proposed decision on the Wyoming SIP by May 15 and a final decision by Oct. 15. PacifiCorp said it believes that its planned emissions reduction projects will satisfy the regional haze requirements in Utah and Wyoming. It is possible that additional controls may be required after the respective SIPs have been considered by the EPA or that the timing of installation of planned controls could change, the company added.

PacifiCorp has already invested heavily in new air controls.

  • In 2011, it spent $189m for installation or upgrade of SO2 scrubbers, low NOx burners and particulate matter control systems, including costs for projects that were placed in service in the spring and fall of 2011.
  • In 2010, emissions control equipment costs totaled $347m, including costs for Dave Johnston Unit 3 in Wyoming, which includes an SO2 scrubber that was placed in service in May 2010, as well as low NOx burners and costs for installation or upgrade of scrubbers on various other generating facilities.
  • In 2009, emissions control equipment spending totaled $353m, including the installation costs for emissions control equipment at Dave Johnston related to the addition of the new scrubber on Unit 3 and the replacement of an existing scrubber on Unit 4, which is expected to be placed into service during 2012. Additional projects in 2009 included installation of scrubbers on various other generating facilities.

PacifiCorp not only operates coal-fired power plants, it has interests in coal mines that support some of its coal plants, including the Deer Creek longwall mine Utah, and the Bridger surface and Bridger underground coal mines at the Jim Bridger plant in Wyoming. These mines supplied 28%, 29% and 31% of PacifiCorp’s total coal requirements during 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively. The remaining coal requirements are acquired through long- and short-term third-party contracts. PacifiCorp also operates the Cottonwood prep plant and Wyodak coal crushing facility.

The Form 10-K said the Bridger surface mine, as of the end of 2011, had 41 million recoverable tons of coal reserves, with that figure only representing PacifiCorp’s two thirds share of the mine. The Bridger deep mine, developed several years ago off a highwall at the surface mine, had 39 million tons of recoverable coal, with that figure again only two thirds of the mine’s total. The other one third of the mines, and one-third of the Jim Bridger power plant, are owned by affiliates of Idaho Power.

Deer Creek in Utah, which serves PacifiCorp’s Huntington, Hunter and Carbon power plants, had 27 million recoverable tons as of the end of 2011, which is a total since there are no ownership shares at this operation. The Trapper strip mine in Colorado, that PacifiCorp co-owns with the owners of the nearby Craig power plant, had 45 million recoverable tons as of the end of 2011 attributed to PacifiCorp’s 21% share of the mine.

In June 2011, Fossil Rock Fuels LLC, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp, acquired the undeveloped Cottonwood coal reserve lease in Emery County, Utah, from an affiliate of Arch Coal (NYSE:ACI). PacifiCorp said it intends to mine the Cottonwood coal reserves in the future and has estimated the recoverable tons to be 47 million. PacifiCorp has said in the past that this could be additional reserves for Deer Creek, or that these reserves could be accessed through a revival of the company’s long-shut Trail Mountain longwall mine.

PacifiCorp delivers electricity to customers in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho under the trade name Rocky Mountain Power and to customers in Oregon, Washington and California under the trade name Pacific Power. PacifiCorp’s electric generation, commercial and trading, and coal mining functions are operated under the trade name PacifiCorp Energy. PacifiCorp is indirectly controlled by Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A and BRK.B).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.