Aided by the shutdown of coal-fired capacity, EPA says Nevada meeting its haze goals

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposes to approve a revision to the Nevada Regional Haze State Implementation Plan (SIP) submitted by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) to document that the existing plan is adequate to achieve established goals for visibility improvement and emissions reductions by 2018.

EPA said in a notice to be published in the Sept. 17 Federal Register that the Nevada Regional Haze SIP revision addresses the Regional Haze Rule (RHR) requirements under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to submit a report describing progress in achieving reasonable progress goals (RPGs) to improve visibility in federally designated Class I areas in Nevada and in nearby states that may be affected by emissions from sources in Nevada. EPA is proposing to approve Nevada’s determination that the existing Nevada Regional Haze Implementation Plan is adequate to meet the visibility goals, and requires no substantive revision at this time.

Comments on this proposed finding must be received within 30 days after date of publication in the Federal Register.

NDEP submitted its Regional Haze SIP to EPA in November 2009 for the first regional haze planning period ending in 2018. EPA approved most of the Nevada Regional Haze SIP in March 2012, with the exception of NDEP’s determination of best available retrofit technology (BART) to control emissions of NOX at the coal-fired Reid Gardner Generating Station.

EPA published a new proposal in April 2012 to approve in part and disapprove in part NDEP’s BART determination for NOX at Reid Gardner. EPA published a final rule in August 2012 approving NDEP’s BART determination for NOX on Units 1 and 2, but disapproving NDEP’s determination for Unit 3 and the averaging time for the emission limits at all three units. This final rule included a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) for the disapproved elements. EPA subsequently agreed to reconsider the compliance date for Units 1, 2, and 3 at Reid Gardner in the FIP, which EPA extended by 18 months.

EPA has considered its own regional haze BART FIP for Reid Gardner as well as the Nevada Regional Haze SIP in assessing the Progress Report. However, all three of the BART-eligible units at Reid Gardner have recently been shut down. Therefore, the partial disapproval and partial FIP for Reid Gardner does not substantively influence EPA’s evaluation of the Progress Report.

The four BART facilities in Nevada are Reid Gardner, Tracy Generating Station, Fort Churchill Generating Station and Mohave Generating Station. The coal-fired Mohave plant closed in 2005. The Nevada Regional Haze SIP requires the remaining three facilities to meet the emission limits associated with all BART control measures by Jan. 1, 2015, with the exception of NOX at Reid Gardner, which has a compliance date of June 30, 2016. Three units at Reid Gardner and two units at Tracy were scheduled to retire by the compliance date.

Nevada bill pushed much of the progress made on regional haze

Subsequent to NDEP’s submittal of the Progress Report, all five of these units were shut down and are now in the process of being decommissioned and demolished. The retirement of these five units, and the switching of three other units at Tracy and Fort Churchill to natural gas, is largely in response to the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 123 by the Nevada legislature in 2013.

Progress by plant is:

  • Reid Gardner Generating Station Units 1-3, NV Energy retired these three units as of Dec. 31, 2014, as approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN);
  • Tracy Generating Station Units 1-2, NV Energy retired these two gas-fired units as of Dec. 31, 2014, as approved by the PUCN and in response to SB 123. At Tracy Unit 3, NV Energy is relying on alternative control technology and burning only natural gas to comply with the BART emissions limits as of the Dec. 31, 2014, compliance date.
  • Fort Churchill Generating Station Units 1-2 (226 MW), NV Energy is relying on alternative control technology and burning only natural gas to comply with the BART emissions limits as of the Dec. 31, 2014, compliance date.

NDEP provides updates on two facilities in Idaho (Amalgamated Sugar Co. in Nampa and Monsanto/P4 Production in Soda Springs) and one facility in Oregon (coal-fired Boardman Power Plant of Portland General Electric) that are subject to BART control measures. Each of these three facilities is reportedly in compliance with the required BART emission limits for SO2 and NOX. However, since some of the compliance dates are not yet effective, more emission reductions are expected by 2018.

Regarding cancellations, NDEP explains that these measures represent additional emission reductions because the emissions from these unbuilt sources were included in the baseline and projected emission inventories in the Nevada Regional Haze SIP. Of the five proposed power plants that NDEP assumed would be producing emissions, three withdrew applications (White Pine, Toquop, and Copper Mountain), and two were built (Newmont TS Power Plant near Dunphy in northern Nevada and Chuck Lenzie Generating Station near Las Vegas).

Newmont TS is a 220-MW power plant using coal-fired boilers with modern control technologies operating since 2008. Chuck Lenzie is 1,102-MWgenerating station using gas-fired steam engines operating since 2006.

The Nevada Legislature in 2013 enacted SB 123 requiring the reduction of emissions from coal-fired power plants in Clark County, Nevada. SB 123 requires the retirement or elimination of not less than 800 MW of coal-fired electric generating capacity: 300 MW by December 2014, an additional 250 MW by December 2017, and an additional 250 MW by December 2019. This legislation also mandates the construction or acquisition of 350 MW from new renewable energy facilities. NV Energy must construct or acquire and own facilities with a total capacity of 550 MW to replace the coal-fired capacity eliminated between 2014 and 2019. NV Energy’s decision to retire BART units at Reid Gardner and Tracy, and to convert other BART units to completely natural gas (from oil) at Tracy and Fort Churchill, was in response to this legislation.

NDEP also reports that Nevada is one of the first states to adopt a renewable portfolio standard that establishes a schedule requiring electric utilities to generate, acquire, or save a percentage of electricity from renewable energy systems or efficiency measures. Not less than 20% must come from renewable energy or efficiency measures from 2015 to 2019. The Nevada legislature also has enacted the “Solar Energy Systems Incentive Program,” which requires the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada to set incentives and schedules to produce at least 250 MW of capacity from solar energy by 2021. At the time of the Progress Report, Nevada had installed 38 MW of capacity at a cost of $160 million.

Another example of renewable energy is the “Solar Thermal Demonstrations Program” that promotes the installation of at least 3,000 solar thermal systems in homes, businesses, schools, and government buildings throughout the state.

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.