EPA cap causes worries at Sandow

Texas last minute addition; state politicos irate over ‘downwind’ decision
Reporter Editor

With Texas a last-minute addition to the sweeping new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules for power plants, Rockdale and Milam County are bracing for the impact on Luminant’s two Sandow units.

“The rule is about 1,300 pages long,” Laura Starnes, Luminant cor porate spokesman, told The Reporter Monday. “We’re spending a great deal of time trying to understand its implications.”

“We do know that it requires compliance in a very short time frame,” she said.

Sandow Units 4 and 5 employ, along with the Three Oaks Mine in Lee and Bastrop counties, about 400 workers.

Luminant is the area’s largest industrial employer since the shutdown of Alcoa’s Rockdale smelter over two years ago.

The EPA on Thursday announced Texas had been added to the original list of 27 eastern and midwestern states which will be required to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions beginning Jan. 1, 2012.

Luminant’s 546-megawatt Sandow Power Plant Unit 5 is one of the nation’s newer coal-fired power plants, coming on-line in 2009. 
Reporter/Mike Brown Luminant’s 546-megawatt Sandow Power Plant Unit 5 is one of the nation’s newer coal-fired power plants, coming on-line in 2009. Reporter/Mike Brown Originally, Texas plants were only targeted for nitrogen oxide (NOX) reductions.

That changed after the EPA said further study warranted inclusion of Texas plants in a regulation targeting pollution crossing state lines.

‘REGULATORY WAR’—Congressman John Carter (R-Round Rock), whose 31st district includes Milam County, filed an amendment in the U. S. House of Representatives to block the move.

“ Texas was not included in the 2010 (EPA SO2) list as EPA research revealed emissions from the Lone Star State did not significantly impact other states,” Carter said.

“But the agency added Texas to the list, without notice, when the final rule was issued, denying Texans the right of review granted to the other states.”

Carter accused the EPA of singling out the state in the new guidelines and added “Texas should not be subject to a regulatory war against Texas.”

Several conservative Democrats in the Texas delegation also expressed concerns over the ruling.

“ The EPA has assured us that these (emission reduction) numbers are achievable and that our emissions have already been trending downward,” Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) said. “However, I remain skeptical that there is enough time to study the regulation and offer feedback on it.”

EPA MODELING—Luminant’s official statement on the rule change cited “large and bipartisan” opposition in the state’s delegation to the addition of Texas in the SO2 cutbacks.

“Initially, according to the draft report, the EPA did not propose including Texas in the annual program because EPA’s modeling did not show significant downwind impacts from Texas emissions,” Luminant said.

Luminant said the new 2012 limits for Texas require a 47-percent reduction relative to actual 2010 levels.

“The industry standard time frame for permitting, constructing and installing major emissions controls is several years, yet the rule unrealistically requires compliance in six months,” Luminant said.

‘AMPLE NOTICE’—Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, said Texas utilities had “ample notice” about the rule and would be able to meet the requirements.

“ Texas has an ample range of costeffective emission reduction options for complying with the requirements of this rule without threatening reliability or the continued operation of coal-burning units, including those that burn lignite from local mining operations,” she said.

Sandow 4 and 5 burn Three Oaks coal.

The EPA claims the new rule will prevent “as many as” 1,070 premature deaths in Texas and will reduce cases of respiratory illnesses and nonfatal heart attacks.

NEW TECHNOLOGY—Sandow 5 was built within the past five years and builders touted its “state of the art” antipollution technology.

Unit 4 was constructed in the late 1970s and upgraded in the mid-1980s.

In the early 2000s, as the result of an anti-pollution court case, Selective Catalytic Converter (SCR) technology was installed to reduce NOX emissions.

LUMINANT IMPACT—While Luminant continues to mull the impact of the new EPA rules, Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission, said 18 Texas power plants, with a total capacity of more than 11,000 megawatts, could be affected.

Industry analysts say power companies might be faced with shutting down plants most affected by the new guidelines

It’s believed the three Luminant plants which could be most affected are all in East Texas, with the Martin Lake facility near Tatum forced to cut emissions by 75 percent next year.

Luminant’s other two coal-fired power plants in East Texas are Monticello, near Mount Pleasant, and Big Brown near Fairfield.

In addition, Luminant also operates the Oak Grove coal-fired plant in Robertson County.

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