Clean coal group says coal plants around St. Louis are not an NAAQS issue

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity on Sept. 22 released a report by Gradient Corp. that shows the St. Louis region’s air quality meets or is well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS).

The coalition said that the report further refutes claims made by “professional environmental groups” that emissions from area power plants are causing health problems in St. Louis. Ameren (NYSE: AEE) has coal-fired power plants in that region.

“We now have clear scientific evidence that St. Louis residents are breathing clean air, and that there is no valid association between particulate matter from specific power plants and health problems,” said Laura Sheehan, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity senior vice president of communications. “St. Louis needs affordable, clean and reliable energy, not a politicized agenda.”

The report debunks two common misconceptions frequently used to call for coal plant closures, the coalition said.

  • First, that fine particles have adverse health effects. The authors of the report detail how people are exposed to fine particles from many outdoor and indoor sources during their normal daily activities at a rate tens to hundreds of times greater than that of any power plant. For example, only 6% to 7% of particulate matter can be attributed to power plants in the St. Louis area.
  • Second, that air pollution is somehow responsible for causing asthma. Air pollution has decreased substantially over the past few decades while the percentage of people diagnosed with asthma has increased. The report outlines how this data shows the causes of asthma are far more attributable to lifestyle choices, allergens and indoor exposures than they are to outdoor air pollution.

“St. Louis deserves clean air and affordable energy solutions, not political misdirection when it comes to energy policy. This report should be the foundation for an honest conversation about how we deliver these solutions, and that includes affordable, clean and reliable coal-fired plants,” said Sheehan.

State commission looks at coal plant emissions issues

On the agenda for the Sept. 24 meeting of the Missouri Air Conservation Commission is a recommendation from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for approval of air program changes. On Aug. 27, the commission held a public hearing for a revision to the Missouri State Implementation Plan (SIP) entitled – Infrastructure Elements for the 2012 Annual PM2.5 Standard.  If the commission adopts this plan, the department intends to submit it to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for inclusion in the Missouri State Implementation Plan.

Said a DNR briefing report submitted to the commission: “The state is recommending area designations (e.g., attainment, nonattainment, unclassifiable) for the 2010 1-hour SO2 standard. The recommendations address four parts of the State of Missouri: the areas surrounding the Sikeston Power Station, Sibley Generating Station, Ameren Labadie Energy Center and the SO2 monitor located in Iron County, Missouri. The recommendations are based on technical evaluations of these areas using air quality modeling and monitoring data. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified these four areas as meeting the criteria specified in the March 2, 2015 Federal Consent Decree for the next round of SO2 designations.”

Sikeston, Sibley and Labadie are all coal-fired power plants.

During the DNR’s review process, Ameren commented that the current SO2 ambient monitoring data in conjunction with historic monitoring data and dispersion modeling (both the old version of AERMOD corrected to address over-predictions and the new version using low wind option even without correcting for over prediction) provide compelling evidence to support a designation recommendation of attainment of the 2010 SO2 NAAQS for the Labadie area. In the alternative, Ameren supports Missouri DNR’s proposed option 2 to recommend a designation of unclassifiable based on incomplete, current monitoring data.

On behalf of the Sierra Club, Washington University submitted a modeling analysis of the Labadie plant performed by Wingra Engineering. Wingra Engineering’s analysis was consistent with the state Air Program’s in many ways, the primary difference being reliance on meteorological data from the Spirit of St. Louis Airport rather than data from Jefferson City, which is what was utilized in the Air Program’s modeling. Wingra Engineering’s results show violations of the 1-hour SO2 NAAQS around Labadie of nearly the same magnitude as the violations in the Air Program’s analysis. However, the spatial pattern of the violating receptors in Wingra’s analysis differs from the Air Program’s results.

On behalf of Sierra Club, Washington University also submitted a modeling analysis of Kansas City Power and Light’s Sibley station performed by Wingra Engineering. Based on this analysis, Washington University commented that the area around Sibley should be designated nonattainment. Wingra Engineering’s evaluation report included modeling results based on two scenarios: sources at their allowable or permitted emissions rates; and sources at recent actual emission rates (hourly emission rates, when available). Because EPA’s guidance indicates that the use of actual emission rates is appropriate for designation purposes under this 1-hour SO2 standard, the analysis based on allowable emissions is beyond the scope of this designation process, the DNR said. Wingra Engineering’s evaluation of Sibley based on actual emission rates is similar to the Air Program’s analysis. “Although we were not able to fully review their analysis because the modeling files themselves were not included with the evaluation report, the information in the report appears to support the Air Program’s assessment that the area immediately surrounding the Sibley Generating Station is in compliance with the 1-hour SO2 standard,” said the DNR.

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.