Louisville, Kentucky — Dynegy intends to keep operating the two largest units at its 695-MW E.D. Edwards coal-fired baseload power plant near Bartonville, Illinois, while reducing the plant's air emissions by 2017, but will retire Edwards' smallest, 80-MW unit in 2016, according to an official with the Houston-based merchant generator.
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Dean Ellis, Dynegy managing director of regulatory affairs, said Wednesday his company has decided to indefinitely operate two Edwards units representing more than 600 MW amid speculation the entire plant might be shut.
The Sierra Club continues to call for Edwards to be closed, citing concerns about pollution and a coal ash retention pond on the plant property.
Kady McFadden, part of the environmental group's Beyond Coal campaign, said Thursday that Dynegy is "misleading" state officials and local residents by promising to slash emissions at Edwards.
Dynegy, through its Dynegy Midwest Generation and Illinois Power Holdings subsidiaries, owns about 7,000 MW of coal-fired merchant generation in Illinois. The company also controls about 6,000 MW of natural gas-fired intermediate and peaking generation in several states.
Dynegy told Illinois officials this week it plans to reduce Edwards' emissions by more than 90%.
"This memorandum agreement with Illinois memorializes that understanding that we would commit early, two years ahead of the one-hour SO2 [sulfur dioxide] rule" in 2017, Ellis said.
The cuts will occur through the plant's continued use of low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal, he said.
"We elected to stick with lower-sulfur coal because of the environmental benefits, even if it is more expensive," he said.
Edwards burns about 2.5 million st of PRB coal annually.
Edwards was among the five merchant plants Dynegy acquired from St. Louis-based Ameren Corp. in late 2013. The sale came less than two weeks after the Illinois Pollution Control Board voted 3 to 1 to give Dynegy a temporary reprieve from the state's Multi-Pollutant Standard air emissions rule.
Dynegy was awarded a five-year variance, until 2020, to comply with the lower emissions levels for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other pollutants.
As part of that decision, the board directed Dynegy to retire Edwards 1, the 80-MW unit, as soon as the Midcontinent Independent System Operator would allow. The unit is operating under a systems support resource arrangement originally between MISO, an independent system operator based in Carmel, Indiana, and Ameren. The agreement was assigned to Dynegy starting in 2015.
As envisioned, the unit will be shut down "in the 2016 time frame," Ellis said.
If Edwards exceeds the state pollution levels, the company most likely would be forced to install additional controls, he said. That could include a scrubber and/or dry-sorbent injection technology to reduce sulfur and mercury emissions.
The Sierra Club's McFadden said that is something Dynegy already should be doing, especially if the company does not plan to shutter Edwards.
"SO2 is a real serious issue in the area," she said, and sulfur dioxide monitors in neighboring Tazewell County show the highest levels in the state.
"Our position remains the same," McFadden said. "Even with the small impact of a decrease in SO2 emissions, we think that unless this company is willing to make an actual investment in the community, we're continuing to call for Dynegy to give us some sense of when the plant will be closed."