The federal court of appeals voted 2-1 that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross State Air-Pollution rule went too far in regulating pollution from coal-fired power plants, though officials with American Electric Power say this will not change the fate of the Big Sandy plant in Louisa.
The EPA’s rule limits the amount of emissions that can travel from a plant down wind. This specifically targets plants that have emissions strong enough to travel down wind and into another state.
While the court’s ruling may be a relief for many energy companies, the EPA claims it will put people at risk for health problems. According to some environmental groups, the emissions from these plants can cause a number of health issues including miscarriages, heart attacks and complications with asthma.
The EPA has been working on increasing regulation on these emissions, however, utility companies say it is not the regulations that are necessarily burdensome, but the time frame in which they must comply that is causing them difficulties.
The corporate communication manager for AEP subsidiary Kentucky Power, Ronn Robinson, said that Kentucky Power has always taken the stance that they have no problem in wanting to comply with regulations, they just find the short deadlines to be constraining and difficult.
While the Cross State Air-Pollution ruling will affect some plants across the nation in terms of compliance, this will not affect the changes to be made at the Big Sandy plant. In January, Kentucky Power announced that they would have to install a $1 billion scrubber on the plant in Louisa in order to comply with EPA regulation. The installation of the scrubber would cost the utility’s customers up to an additional 30 percent on their bills each month. The Public Service Commission held a series of meetings to judge the community reaction about the possible rate increase, and if they would allow AEP to increase their rate.
However, in May Kentucky Power said the company would suspend this plan and begin looking at other options to meet compliance. In effect, it meant that the power plant in Louisa would be shut down because as it would not meet the EPA emissions standards.
While the Cross State Air-Pollution rule was one of the areas in which the Big Sandy plant had to achieve compliance, Robinson noted that there are still others that would have to be met. They are hoping to make a decision by the end of the year on how they are going to proceed with the plant.
“What we are doing now is we are weighing our options as to how we are going to meet our agreement that we agreed to several years ago,” Robinson said.
Robinson added that the Cross State Air-pollution rule is one that is affecting some AEP plants, though it is only one of many.
Regardless of this judgment by the court of appeals, many plants will still face conversion, closure, or expensive changes in order to meet compliance in the next several years.