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Top generators still emitting more CO2 than 1990; Colstrip owners agree to retire 2 units

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Top generators still emitting more CO2 than 1990; Colstrip owners agree to retire 2 units

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $32.1 billionappropriations billJuly 14 to fund the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. EPA and relatedagencies for fiscal year 2017. The bill, as well as several newly adoptedamendments, wouldhalt development and enforcement of a range of regulations for the energysector.

An annual report of air pollutant emissions from the 100largest U.S. power producers found that sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide andmercury emissions have dropped since 1990, while carbon dioxide emissions haveincreased. Congress passed major amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990,triggering reductions in certain pollutants released in the process of generatingelectricity.

The owners of the 2,094-MW Colstrip coal-fired plant in Montana on July 12reached a proposed settlement with environmental group opponents that couldpave the way to the retirement of the two older units at the plant on or beforeJuly 2022. The settlement answers questions about the future of one of the lastand largest coal plants operating in the Pacific Northwest, a plant that forsome time has had an uncertain fate.

Minnesota-based electric power cooperative will retire its189-MW, coal-fired StantonStation in Mercer County, N.D., by May 2017, ending the life of the plant afterabout 50 years of operation, the company said. Stanton has become uneconomic tooperate in the face of low power prices in the region, according to a GreatRiver Energy statement.

A coalition of environmental advocacy groups issued a finalplea to the Tennessee ValleyAuthority, asking the utility to reverse what it says is a coal ashdisposal "cover up plan" at several of its coal-fired power plants.The Southern Environmental Law Center, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy,the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice and several other groupssubmitted comments together in opposition to the TVA's recommendation ofclosure-in-place as its preferred method for disposing of coal ash byproductsat the sites of the plants.

Salt RiverProject is planning a test burn of forest debris at its 762-MWCoronadogenerating station in Arizona to explore the feasibility of using biomass as asupplemental fuel at the coal-fired plant. SRP said the test burn would be thefirst of its kind in the state. Starting this fall or early winter, the publicpower utility will co-burn more than 2,600 tons of biomass with coal over a20-day period. The U.S. Forest Service and Arizona are collaborating with SRPon the test burn.

Duke EnergyCorp. will no longer be required to excavate and remove coal ashfrom all of its North Carolina impoundments if it meets certain requirementslaid out in a new state law. Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill July 15 thatreopens the evaluation processfor seven of Duke Energy's 14 coal ash sites as long as the company providespermanent drinking water to nearby residents, makes required dam safety repairsand meets certain recycling mandates.

Former PeabodyEnergy Corp. executive Fred Palmer called for a strongerpartnership with the U.S. government to ensure "21st century coal" inthe post-election landscape during a talk July 12 sponsored by the AmericanCoal Council. Palmer pushed for greater federal support for coal technologiesthat will allow lower emissions from power generation to ensure industrylongevity.

A pair of Democratic senators teamed up to support continuedcoal use in the U.S. with the introduction of a bill aimed at expanding taxbreaks and eligibility for companies pursuing carbon capture and storage projectson July 13. Introduced by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. and Sheldon Whitehouse,D-R.I., the Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Act would increase existing45Q tax breaks for permanently stored CO2 and carbon dioxide used for enhancedoil recovery.

The California Air Resources Board released July 12 apreliminary draft proposal that would make major changes to the state'scap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions, among them being theimplementation of new emissions caps post-2020. CARB staff is proposing to usethe post-2020 program to comply with the federally proposed Clean Power Plan.