Luminant mulling responses to EPA rule
With 5-1/2 months left before sweeping new standards on power plant emissions—which many analysts believe target lignite coal itself—go into effect, Luminant is pondering its alternatives.
Luminant, which operates 1,137-megawatt Sandow Power Plant Units 4 and 5 near Rockdale, is mulling legislation, an appellate process before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and legal action as responses, according to Allen Koenig of Luminant’s Dallas corporate office.
Units 4 and 5, plus the Three Oaks Power Plant, which provides lignite coal, together employ about 400 and comprise the area’s largest business employer since the shutdown of the Alcoa smelter.
Texas was a last-minute addition to EPA’s Cross- State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). The state was ordered to cut SO2 emissions by 25 percent, beginning Jan. 1.
That has obv ious implications for Luminant but Koenig would not speculate on whether two-year- old Sandow Unit 5 is in better shape to deal with the new regulations than three east Texas plants which also use lignite.
Big Brown is 39 years old, Monticello 33 and Martin Lake 32.
Unit 4 has had a new technology nitrogen oxide (NOX) scrubber installed this decade. While the new rule mostly deals with SO2, it also addresses NOX.
ALTERNATIVES—But Koenig would confirm the following responses are in the works:
• L eg islat ive. C ong ressma n John Carter (R-Round Rock) has introduced legislation to block the move. It is supported by 29 of the state’s 32 congressional representatives from both parties.
• Appellate. Luminant is asking the EPA to reconsider its ruling and timing, noting that by contrast the original Clean Air Act allowed 10 years for businesses to make operational changes.
• Legal. Koenig said Luminant is exploring the possibility of taking the matter to court.
“We’ve made zero operating decisions,” Koenig said. “There are just simply dozens of possibilities.”
JOBS—The last-minute EPA decision—Texas was not one of the original states in the new ruling—has produced some dire predictions.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ( IBEW) which represents employees at the Sandow Power Plant and Three Oaks Mine, has told the EPA the new rule could destroy the jobs of 1,500 IBEW members at six power plants in Texas.
The National Electric Reliability Council has estimated the new rule could so abruptly suppress coal-fired generators that basic electric reliability in the U. S. could suffer a loss of up to 100 gigawatts by 2014.
That’ s 10 percent of the nation’s total electric capacity.
Eleven percent of Texas’ electricity is generated using native lignite coal.
DOWNWIND—EPA included Texas in the new rule based on models it said showed the state’s power plant emissions affecting areas of other states “downwind.”
The EPA used particulate matter readings in St. Louis, Missour i, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for its modeling.
Luminant maintains the EPA violated federal requirements in adding Texas to the list of states.
“EPA never actually proposed adding Texas in the annual emissions limit program and never provided any proposed annual limit for Texas,” a Luminant statement charges.