Environmental groups protest Ameren, Dynegy air break request

The Sierra Club, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Respiratory Health Association and Natural Resources Defense Council on Aug. 15 filed objections to a request for a variance at the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) for the coal plants Ameren (NYSE: AEE) wants to sell to Dynegy (NYSE: DYN).

The variance request was filed July 22 by Dynegy subsidiary Illinois Power Holdings and Ameren, and would give Dynegy five extra years to comply with the state Multi-Pollutant Standard. Dynegy wants to purchase Ameren’s five Illinois merchant coal-fired power plants. In June, the IPCB, in a technical ruling, denied Ameren’s request to transfer a variance directly to Dynegy.

Holly Bressett, Deputy Campaign Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, said in an Aug. 15 statement: “Dynegy has decided it wants to gamble big on coal, and roll the dice with fingers crossed that energy prices will go up to feed its profit margin. Unfortunately for our health, Dynegy’s gamble depends on postponing modern pollution controls on these plants that will save lives, reduce asthma attacks and other health problems.”

A board hearing officer has set this case for a Sept. 17 hearng.

Saying that Ameren Energy Resources (AER) didn’t meet certain technical standards, the board on June 6 had refused to transfer air compliance breaks previously granted by the board from AER to a unit of Dynegy. On May 2, AER and the Illinois Power Holdins (IPH) unit of Dynegy filed a motion to reopen a docket and substitute IPH as the holder of those prior breaks under the Multi-Pollutant Standard (MPS).

The board in its June 6 ruling said that all units in the MPS Group must be considered in its decision in this case, not just those units to be sold to Dynegy. So it rejected the May 2 application so that problem could be fixed.

On July 22, IPH and AmerenEnergy Medina Valley Cogen LLC filed an amended application with the board that they said takes care of the problem. They also asked for a decision within 120 days. They asked the board for “dual variances” for the plants.

The five operating coal-fired plants involved are:

  • Newton, 1,215 MW;
  • Joppa, 1,002 MW;
  • Coffeen, 895 MW.
  • E.D. Edwards, 650 MW; and
  • Duck Creek, 410 MW.

The crux of the problem was that the AER MPS Group consists of seven plants (five open and two shut), and the September 2012 board variance approval applied to the group, but AER only requested the transfer of the breaks related to the five plants that IPH is actually buying.

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.