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EPA proposes to limit emissions at Nebraska's largest power plant

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EPA proposes to limit emissions at Nebraska's largest power plant

The U.S. EPA is seeking to have Nebraska's largest power plant install new equipment to limit sulfur dioxide emissions. According to a draft rule, Nebraska Public Power District would be obligated to install scrubber technology at its 1,365-MW Gerald Gentleman coal-fired plant in Lincoln County, Neb., within five years.

The EPA finalized a partial approval/partial disapproval of Nebraska’s state implementation plan, or SIP, in 2012, that addressed regional haze and a federal plan addressing the deficiencies in the state plan. After that action was challenged in federal court, the agency had the plan remanded to address its reliance on the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to satisfy the deficiencies in Nebraska's regional haze plan.

The agency has now determined that SO2 emissions reductions "are needed to make reasonable progress toward Congress' natural-visibility goal" in areas affected by visibility-impairing emissions from Nebraska. Because CSAPR did not require significant SO2 reductions at the plant, relying on CSAPR "to ensure reasonable progress without further consideration of appropriate SO2 control measures" would be inappropriate for the plant, the EPA said.

The EPA therefore looked at four factors: the costs of compliance, time necessary for compliance, energy and non-air quality environmental impacts of compliance, and "remaining useful life" of any potentially affected sources. The EPA concluded that NPPD could meet an SO2 emission limit at the plant of 0.060 lb/MMBtu with cost effective controls. It also found that a rate of 0.060 lb/MMBtu is necessary to make progress at the affected federal areas in neighboring states.

Several environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, praised the proposal, maintaining that the plant's emissions cause visible air pollution at national park sites and wilderness areas in South Dakota, Colorado, Missouri and Oklahoma.

"Neighboring states like Colorado have done their part in reducing air pollution and realized the benefits of new clean energy investment," said Graham Jordison, Nebraska Organizing Representative for the Sierra Club, in a statement. "NPPD's board of directors should embrace this opportunity to work with the public on a cost-effective strategy to reduce pollution at the state's biggest polluter."

NPPD spokesperson Mark Becker confirmed that the company's legal department is reviewing the EPA proposal, but he added that the plant is in compliance "with all existing EPA requirements, including regulations for SO2 and NOx." Pollution control equipment has been installed at the plant, including low NOx burners on both units and a baghouse that captures particulate matter and mercury controls, according to Becker. He also noted that low-sulfur coal is burned "which reduces the SO2 emissions."

Becker added that NPPD's elected-board of directors has not discussed adding scrubbers to the plant.

The White House issued an order late Jan. 20, freezing new or pending rules until agency heads can review them. How that mandate will impact the EPA draft rule is unclear.