Generating energy remains a vital part of the critical infrastructure moving forward, but it has to happen in the right way.
That is why power plants from Colorado to Hawaii decided to shut down various operations and one in Utah is facing fines for emissions issues.
In Arkansas, an agreement ended up reached between WildEarth Guardians and the Arkansas River Power Authority that will close the utility’s coal-fired power plant in Lamar, CO, and send $125,000 to clean energy projects in Southeastern Colorado.
The settlement resolves two enforcement lawsuits filed in federal court by WildEarth Guardians against the Arkansas River Power Authority for violating the Clean Air Act at their coal-fired power plant in Lamar. The 43-megawatt plant came to life in 2009 after the Authority converted its natural gas-fired power plant to coal.
The plant is now offline.
The consent decree ended up filed in federal court, but a judge will not sign it until mid-August. Under the Clean Air Act, settlements of citizen enforcement suits must be subject to U.S. Department of Justice review for 45 days. Once signed, the agreement will become enforceable and binding.
In Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) is looking to shut down power plants across the state.
After serving customers for nearly 60 years, HECO will deactivate its Honolulu Power Plant.
It’s just one of the moves HECO is making as it continues to move away from oil and toward renewable energy.
“We’re planning for the next 20 years. We know there’s a lot of changes in the energy world. And we know people are concerned about their bills,” HECO spokesperson Peter Rosegg said.
HECO just filed its five-year plan with the state Public Utilities commission.
As part of the plan, HECO will deactivate the plant in Honolulu by next year as well as half of Maui’s Kahului Power Plant. Down the road, the Kahului plant will be fully retired by 2019.
Also by next year, the company will fully retire the Shipman Plant on the Big Island.
By 2016, the company will also deactivate two of eight units at Waiau.
HECO says all of these plants are old and are getting more expensive to maintain.
For example, deactivating the Honolulu Power Plant will save the company $8 million.
Although the Kahului and Shipman Power Plants will permanently shut down, the others will end up deactivated, which means they can reactivate in a major emergency, as seen in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.
“They closed all their nuclear plants and fortunately for them they had on reserve their fossil fuel plants. They were able to reactivate them very quickly,” Rosegg said.
In Utah, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settled on an agreement with the Deseret Generation & Transmission Co-operative to pay $35,000 in penalties, install new controls during startup and shutdown at the Bonanza facility, and cover the cost of replacing at least five fleet vehicles with natural gas models. The EPA — and not the Utah Department of Environmental Quality — regulates the plant because it is on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation.
“This settlement secures Deseret’s commitment to significantly reduce emissions of particulate pollution and visible emissions from the Bonanza plant during startup and shutdown events and improve visibility in the surrounding area,” said Mike Gaydosh, enforcement director at EPA in Denver. “Additionally, the conversion of the company’s vehicles to natural gas will benefit local air quality by significantly reducing emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulates.”
Federal regulators said fine soot bypassed Bonanza’s pollution control device during startup and shutdown.
By limiting the particulate pollution from the coal-fired plant, the EPA hopes to protect the health of surrounding communities. The fine soot not only affects the people who breathe it — especially the very old, the very young and people with heart and lung trouble — but it also plays an important role in creating haze that plagues remote national parks and wilderness areas.
The Bonanza plant landed in the national spotlight a few years ago, when the EPA granted permission for a new unit without addressing greenhouse gases from the plant and the case eventually led to a Supreme Court decision upholding the federal government’s authority to count the emissions blamed for climate change.