The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Colorado’s Regional Haze State Implementation plan, which Gov. John Hickenlooper said includes a comprehensive package of pollutant emissions reduction strategies designed to provide sweeping public health and environmental protections.
“The EPA’s approval of the Regional Haze Plan is a ringing endorsement of a comprehensive and collaborative effort between many different groups,” Hickenlooper said in a Sept. 11 statement. “Colorado’s utilities, environmental community, oil and gas industry, health advocates and regulators all came together to address air quality. We embrace this success as a model for continuing to balance economic growth with wise public policy that protects community health and our environmental values.”
The governor noted that a key component of the overall plan is the 2010 Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act passed by the Colorado General Assembly that will force the retirement and conversion to natural gas of various old coal units in the state. Most of the affected coal units are operated by Public Service Co. of Colorado, a unit of Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL). By 2018, the plan will result in more than 70,000 tons of pollutant reductions annually, including 35,000 tons of NOx. In total, the plan approved by EPA covers 30 units at 16 facilities throughout Colorado, including coal-fired power plants and cement kilns.
“EPA’s approval of Colorado’s plan works for both the environment and our customers,” said David Eves, president and CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado. “EPA has now joined the Public Utilities Commission, the Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado legislature and other stakeholders in endorsing our plan under the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act. EPA’s action helps ensure we can significantly reduce emissions while keeping electricity affordable.”
“This approval is an important endorsement of Colorado’s state-led collaboration,” said Tisha Schuller, President & CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association. “The Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act will support job creation in Colorado’s natural gas sector while measurably reducing air pollutant emissions.”
Notable by its absence was any supporting quote issued by the governor’s office from the Colorado Mining Association, which represents coal producers in the state and has been vehemently opposed to the 2010 Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act.
“Colorado’s bipartisan clean air plan is already providing healthier air for our children and helping clear the brown cloud over Denver while strengthening our economy,” said Pamela Campos, an attorney in the Environmental Defense Fund’s Colorado office. “EPA has shown strong leadership with this approval, clearing the way for historic pollution reductions from the single largest emitters in Colorado so that we can all breathe easier.”
An example of regional haze compliance is that Public Service Co. of Colorado is permitting new NOx and SO2 controls for the coal-fired, 505-MW unit at its Pawnee power plant. The Colorado Air Pollution Control Division is seeking public comment until Oct. 11 on draft air permitting for the project. Pawnee is required to meet the regional haze emission limitations by Dec. 31, 2014. PSCo will be installing a lime spray dryer to reduce SO2 emissions and selective catalytic reduction to reduce NOX emissions, the division noted.