Lamar agrees to shut new coal unit until at least 2022

Plaintiff WildEarth Guardians and defendants Lamar Utilities Board d/b/a Lamar Light and Power and the Arkansas River Power Authority have reached a deal for a 44-MW coal unit to remain in “cold standby” until at least Feb. 1, 2022.

Cold standby means the unit can’t accept, handle or burn coal during that period. Some limited testing of the unit can take place during the standby period.

The parties on July 2 filed a consent decree covering this agreement at the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, which will put it up for public comment. The parties requested that the court stay all proceedings in this case through and including Sept. 6, pending the completion of a statutorily-mandated 45-day period for the U.S. Attorney General and the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review the proposed consent decree.

In December 2009, Guardians filed suit against the defendants in this court, asserting violations of Section 112(g) of the Clean Air Act and its implementing regulations relating to the construction of the Lamar Repowering Project (LRP), a 44-MW coal-fired electric unit located in Lamar, Colo. In March 2011, Guardians filed another case in this court asserting multiple violations of the Clean Air Act based upon alleged exceedances of certain air pollution limitations and conditions in the LRP’s construction permit.

Guardians said in a July 2 statement that the agreement resolves a litany of clean air violations, paves the way for shutting down the utility’s coal-fired power plant in the eastern plains town of Lamar, and directs $125,000 to clean energy projects in southeastern Colorado to specifically benefit low income homes, schools, or daycares.

“This is an incredible opportunity for southeastern Colorado to forge a new energy future that safeguards clean air, the climate, and its communities,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for Guardians. “We are pleased that we were able to work together with the Arkansas River Power Authority to turn serious clean air violations into a commitment to power past coal.”

The LRP was constructed in 2009 after the authority converted its natural gas-fired power plant to coal. Since 2009, the coal-fired power plant violated one or more pollution limits on virtually every day it has operated, Guardians said. The plant is now offline due to the failure of the Arkansas River Power Authority to meet its air quality permit and because it costs more to operate than to purchase power from outside sources, it added.

As part of the agreement, the authority, which serves the southeastern Colorado communities of Lamar, Holly, Springfield, La Junta, Las Animas, and Trinidad, committed to securing an additional long-term power supply contract by 2018 or else pay additional penalties, Guardians noted.

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.