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Rocky Mountain Power says coal plants may close early

Jun 9, 2013 - The Associated Press

CASPER -- Wyoming's largest electricity provider says proposed federal environmental regulations could close at least some of its four coal-fired power plants in the state sooner than planned.

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a revised version of its plan to control regional haze. The new plan incorporates parts of a plan written by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality but includes tougher restrictions for some of the state's power plants.

Rocky Mountain Power, Wyoming's largest power provider, has four coal-fired plants in the state -- Jim Bridger, Dave Johnston, Wyodak and Naughton. The EPA plan would force the utility to close some of the plants ahead of schedule, company spokesman Dave Eskelsen said.

He declined to say which plants which would close early -- only that the company is studying the potential effects on each of its units.

"EPA's proposal, if finalized, would require more extensive emission controls than the state of Wyoming proposed in its own regional haze State Implementation Plan," Eskelsen wrote in an e-mail to the newspaper. "The state plan was workable, appropriate and one PacifiCorp supported."

Wyoming's congressional delegation and Gov. Matt Mead criticized the EPA's proposal Wednesday.

The EPA's policy is more about slowing coal than reducing haze, Mead said.

"It is also troubling that the EPA seems to have given undue weight to comments by environmental groups and little consideration to Wyoming's comments," he said.

The EPA rules contain stronger nitrous oxide control restrictions on three Rocky Mountain Power units and three owned by Basin Electric. Most requirements would need to be in place within a decade of the rule's implementation.

A spokeswoman for Basin Electric said her company still supports Wyoming's plan.

"Basin Electric supports that plan, which includes a requirement for the Laramie River Station to reduce significantly its emissions of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides," Mary Miller wrote in an e-mail. "That plan ... adequately protects visibility, and we believe it is inappropriate for EPA to reject the state's plan and substitute its own."

The Wyoming-based Powder River Basin Resource Council issued a statement supporting the EPA plan.

"In Wyoming, improving air quality and improving our economy are not mutually exclusive actions," council organizer Shannon Anderson said. "EPA's plan to reduce haze-causing pollution at coal power plants ensures Wyoming's important tourism industry, rooted in our treasured national parks and wilderness areas, will have a place in our state's economy well into the future."

The EPA said in a statement that it expected to continue to work with Wyoming officials on the plan.

"As it has done with states across the country, EPA has worked, and will continue to work, with Wyoming to put in place a plan that relies on proven, cost-effective technologies to cut harmful pollution that reduces visibility," spokesman Richard Mylott wrote in an e-mail.

The EPA will take comments on its plan for 60 days once it's published and is planning a late June hearing on the rule.

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