Illinois EPA takes comment on Midwest Gen air breaks

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Bureau of Air is accepting public comment until Oct. 30 on a variance granted by the Illinois Pollution Control Board to Midwest Generation LLC.

The Illinois EPA plans to submit the board-granted variance to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a revision to the Illinois State Implementation Plan under the Clean Air Act (CAA).

On Nov. 30, 2012, Midwest Generation, with coal-fired power plants in Cook, Will, Tazewell, and Lake counties, requested a variance from portions of the Illinois Combined Pollutant Standard (CPS). Midwest Generation requested relief from the system-wide SO2 emission rates set by Illinois statute from Jan. 1, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2016.

With respect to its coal-fired Waukegan Generating Station, Midwest Generation also requested a variance from a state requirement regarding installation of certain SO2 control equipment on Waukegan Unit 8 by Dec. 31, 2014. Midwest Generation requested a five-month delay of such requirement, to May 31, 2015.

On April 4, the board granted the variance, subject to certain conditions.

The CPS is a multi-pollutant comprehensive approach to reduce emissions of NOX SO2, and mercury. As Midwest Generation’s petition for variance sought relief from provisions of the CPS and such relief was granted by the board, the variance must be submitted to the U.S. EPA for approval as a SIP revision addressing the visibility requirements under the CAA and the federal agency’s Regional Haze Rule.

Board allowed Midwest Gen to delay some major capital expenditures

Last December, Midwest Generation and parent Edison Mission Energy sought Chapter 11 protection at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Just before that, Midwest Gen asked the board for relief both from provisions of the CPS regulations and from a condition of the board’s order in a 2012 decision involving the Waukegan coal plant.

Five of Midwest Generation’s electric generating stations with coal-fired boilers were at issue in the proceeding decided April 4: Crawford (Cook County); Joliet (Will County); Powerton (Tazewell County); Waukegan (Lake County); and Will County (Will County).

In its petition filed Nov. 30, 2012, Midwest Gen asked for a variance from three requirements.

  • The company sought relief from the system-wide average annual SO2 emission rates for the two-year period of Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2016, allowing a delay of a $210m scrubber project at Waukegan Unit 8. It has committed to not operate Waukegan Unit 8 from the end of 2014 until the scrubber is installed.
  • Midwest Gen sought relief for a period of five months, delaying a requirement until May 31, 2015, for it to install flue gas desulfurization equipment on, or permanently shut down, Waukegan Unit 8 by Dec. 31, 2014.
  • Midwest Gen sought relief from a condition in the 2012 Waukegan order that requires it to meet, from Dec. 31, 2013 until Dec. 31, 2014, a system-wide SO2 emissions rate.

Midwest Generation told the board that it is still planning to spend $230m in 2013 and 2014 to install controls on Powerton Unit 6 and Waukegan Unit 7, along with engineering and procurement for controls on other units.

Due to the April 4 board decision, Midwest Generation’s CPS Group is not subject to the average annual SO2 emission rates of 0.28 lb/mmBtu in 2015 and 0.195 lb/mmBtu in 2016, until Jan, 1, 2017, at which point the CPS emission rates apply, beginning with 0.15 lb/mmBtu for 2017. Further, Midwest Generation is not subject to the requirement to install and have operational flue gas desulfurization (FGD) equipment on, or permanently shut down, Waukegan Unit 8 by Dec. 31, 2014, for a period of five months, i.e., until May 31, 2015, at which point Waukegan Unit 8 must have FGD equipment installed and operational, or be permanently shut down.

The board denied as unnecessary Midwest Gen’s request for relief from the condition in the 2012 Waukegan order, since the rest of the decision accomplishes the same goal.

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.