By Tammy Gray
New proposed regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could have an impact not only on the construction of new coal-fired power plants, but on the operation of existing plants and the overall price of energy for consumers.
The proposed rules require use of carbon capture technology that does not yet exist for new plants, and addi-tional air emission and water use restrictions for existing plants. A study conducted for the American Coalition For Clean Coal Electricity notes that if put in effect, the new regulations could result in the loss of 183,000 jobs nationwide, and cost the average household $270 per year.
Locally, Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) officials are concerned about how proposals specific to three Arizona coal-burning plants would affect the Cholla Power Plant. More than $350 million in environmental upgrades have already been added to the plant over the last several years in order to meet stricter regulations. The latest EPA proposal, however, goes beyond the regulations anticipated by APS.
APS spokesman Steven Gotfried noted that the company is still analyzing the new rules for their potential impact on the Cholla plant. He explained that the process is complicated and time-consuming, and EPA has given very little time for APS to respond.
“Our first priority is to ask for more time,” he remarked.
According to Gotfried, the usual public comment period for proposed rules is 90 days, but in this case the EPA has given only about 60 days for public comment, and only about two weeks remain for the companies to appeal the proposal.
The new rules are aimed mainly at nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions. Environmental groups claim that the emissions are to blame for haze around national parks, such as the Grand Canyon. APS has already put in new equipment to reduce NOx emissions at the Cholla plant by about 65 percent. Other upgrades have also reduced mercury and particulate emissions at the plant. Upgrades were installed in anticipation of new state regulations, but the proposed EPA federal regulations are far more stringent than the state rules.
Gotfried noted that the impact of the proposed rules has not yet been determined, and at this stage APS is mainly seeking more time to evaluate the proposal and its impact on Cholla before deciding what steps to take next.
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By Tammy Gray