PacifiCorp seeks stay on SCR mandate for Wyodak coal unit

Saying it wants to avoid making a major and potentially unnecessary expenditure, PacifiCorp on June 11 asked a federal appeals court for a stay of a regional haze mandate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its coal-fired Wyodak Unit 1 in Wyoming.

EPA is forcing the installation of “expensive and unnecessary” NOx control equipment, called selective catalytic reduction (SCR), on PacifiCorp’s Wyodak Unit 1 by illegally re-defining the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) regional haze program, particularly the best available retrofit technology (BART) requirement, said the utility in its June 11 stay request at the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In its January 2014 final rule, EPA disapproved key parts of the State of Wyoming’s “reasonable and well-developed” Regional Haze State Implementation Plan (RH SIP) and  replaced it with EPA’s own federal implementation plan (FIP), PacifiCorp argued.

PacifiCorp owns 80% of, and operates, the 335-MW Wyodak Unit 1, which is the subject of this stay motion.

PacifiCorp said it is likely to prevail in its overall challenge of EPA’s ruling because:

  • EPA has ignored Wyoming’s statutorily-granted BART decision-making discretion, which is especially broad for smaller power plants, like Wyodak;
  • as a result, EPA incorrectly rejected Wyoming’s NOx BART analysis for Wyodak Unit 1 because EPA improperly applied certain guidelines as “mandatory” when they are “discretionary”; and
  • EPA failed to analyze all of the statutorily-required BART factors for Wyodak Unit 1, including conducting a review of the “existing pollution control equipment” and “non-air quality environmental impacts.”

EPA’s illegal adoption of the final rule will have an immediate and irreparable impact on PacifiCorp, since to meet the statutory deadline it must start the process to install and operate SCR on Wyodak Unit 1 at an estimated cost exceeding $175m in the relatively near term, some of it while this legal challenge is being decided, the utility said.

It will be required to begin engineering activities immediately with no recourse against EPA if the final rule is reversed. Its current compliance deadline is March 2019. PacifiCorp expects to spend approximately $500,000 on development of the Unit 1 SCR project by the end of 2014, with another $700,000 projected to be spent in 2015.

To have any practical effect, PacifiCorp asks that the stay result in a day-for-day extension of the compliance deadline identified in the FIP for Wyodak Unit 1. EPA and the intervenors in PacifiCorp’s appeal have indicated that they will oppose PacifiCorp’s motion to stay.

Wyodak, a single-unit plant that is co-owned with Black Hills Power, burns 2 million tons of sub-bituminous coal per year. It is supplied to the plant via a conveyor from the adjacent Wyodak strip mine, which is owned and operated by an affiliate of Black Hills Corp.

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.