Minnesota Power’s larger customers back Boswell 4 retrofit

A group called the “Large Power Intervenors,” which includes companies like steelmakers ArcelorMittal USA and United States Steel Corp., told the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission there is no need to re-look at the commission’s Nov. 5 approval of new air emissions controls for the coal-fired Boswell Unit 4.

On Nov. 5, the commission issued a final order (a 3-2 oral vote was recorded on Sept. 25) approving for Minnesota Power the Boswell 4 Mercury Reduction Plan (“BEC4 Mercury Reduction Plan”) and cost recovery for the associated costs. On Nov. 25, several environmental groups (called the “Environmental Intervenors”) filed a request for reconsideration.

Those intervenors claim the approval order is unlawful because it violates Minnesota statute, which requires that the commission consider “the environmental and public health benefits, the agency’s determination of technical feasibility, competitiveness of customer rates, and cost-effectiveness of the utility’s proposed mercury control initiatives in light of the Pollution Control Agency’s review under paragraph (a).”

The Environmental Intervenors claim the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) review was deficient for failure to provide a detailed assessment of the environmental and public health benefits of alternatives to the BEC4 Mercury Reduction Plan such as repowering with natural gas.

“Although the Environmental Intervenors argue that the Approval Order is unlawful, they raise no new issues or legal arguments to make this case other than what was exhaustively reviewed by the Commission in this docket and in making its decision in the Approval Order,” said the LPI companies in the Dec. 5 filing. “Because the Commission’s decision in that Approval Order is consistent with the facts, the law and the public interest, it should not be reconsidered. Furthermore additional delays, which would postpone the environmental and public health benefits while increasing cost of the project, are contrary to the public interest.”

The Environmental Intervenors essential argument for reconsideration is based on a flawed interpretation of the state’s Mercury Emission Reduction Act (MERA), the companies added. Specifically, they argue that the MPCA’s analysis of the BEC4 Mercury Reduction Plan was legally deficient. The companies said the applicable statute does not direct MPCA to review wholesale alternatives to the utility’s mercury reduction plan as part of its review process. Instead the MPCA must evaluate the specific mercury reduction plan and whether it meets the law, the companies added.

The project will bring the 585-MW Boswell Unit 4 into compliance with state and federal regulations to reduce smokestack emissions of mercury. WPPI Energy owns 20% of Boswell 4 and will pay a share of the upgrade cost.

Alstom said Aug. 29 that it has won a new contract to deliver an emission control system for Unit 4 at Boswell. Once installed on the 585-MW unit, Alstom’s NID semi-dry flue gas desulfurization system will cut mercury emissions by 90% and significantly curb emissions of SO2 and other pollutants.

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.