Sierra Club files suit over air permitting for FutureGen 2.0

The Sierra Club has filed suit to force Ameren Energy Resources Co. and the FutureGen Industrial Alliance to get a prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) air permit for the FutureGen 2.0 coal-fired power project.

The Clean Air Act lawsuit, filed Dec. 9 at the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, civil penalties payable to the United States Treasury, supplemental environmental projects, and costs and fees.

The plan by the FutureGen Industrial Alliance, which has been aiming for a construction start in 2014, is to repower one unit (Boiler #7) at the shut Meredosia power plant in Illinois, which is controlled by Ameren.

“As a result of burning coal, Boiler #7 will emit thousands of tons of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, particulate matter and carbon monoxide each year,” said the lawsuit. “Those pollutants contribute to climate change, respiratory distress, cardiovascular disease, and even premature mortality.”

Ameren proposes construction at Boiler #7 without first obtaining a PSD permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authorizing that construction, without meeting emission limits that are “best available control technology,” without installing appropriate technology to control emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, particulate matter, and other pollutants as required by the Act, and without making a determination that emissions increases from the modifications would not cause or contribute to a violation of any National Ambient Air Quality Standard or applicable maximum allowable increases, said the lawsuit.

“However, such a determination is not possible because Ameren’s own analysis already shows that Boiler #7 will contribute to violations of the public health based sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides national ambient air quality standards, thus endangered the health of innocent people including Sierra Club members,” the lawsuit added.

An order of this court enjoining Ameren and FutureGen from constructing Boiler #7 without a PSD permit, will delay pollution and also require significant decreases in pollution, the lawsuit said. In addition, an order of this court enjoining defendants from constructing Boiler #7 without a PSD permit, will provide Sierra Club and its members with information and procedural and due process protections which Sierra Club and its members are entitled to under the Clean Air Act and the U.S. Constitution.

The Illinois EPA was taking comment until Nov. 8 on two draft air construction permits for this project. The U.S. Department of Energy, which would provide about $1bn in federal funding for this project, on Oct. 25 released the final environmental impact statement for the project, which is due to go into construction next year and be completed in 2017.

The FutureGen Industrial Alliance, as the project operator, and Ameren Energy Resources, as the Meredosia plant owner, applied for the air permits. The project, at 168 MWe gross capacity, will include construction of a coal-fired oxy-combustion boiler, auxiliary boiler, three cooling towers, and other ancillary operations and modification of existing coal-handling operations and other operations at thesource. One air construction permit is for the power plant itself, while the other is for a backup engine to be located at the site of the separate CO2 sequestration facility in eastern Morgan County.

The plant will demonstrate oxy-combustion and carbon capture and sequestration technologies at full scale for a coal-fired electrical generating unit in a project that is considered a key to any long-term viability that coal-fired power has in the U.S. power industry.

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.