AEP Resolves All Legal Challenges Against Turk Plant

Issue 2 and Volume 116.

  American Electric Power and its operating unit Southwestern Electric Power Co. settled all legal actions brought against it by the Sierra Club, the National Audubon Society and Audubon Arkansas related to the John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant near Texarkana, Ark.
Nicholas Akins

The settlement resolves all issues raised by the groups’ combined or individual challenges to the Corps of Engineers Section 404 permit, the air and wastewater permits issued for the plant, as well as a complaint recently filed at the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

The 600-MW coal-fueled plant, which is under construction in Hempstead County, is more than 80 percent complete and scheduled to begin commercial operation in late 2012.

“We have long believed that the Turk Plant is the right generation solution for our customers in three states, our electric system and the economy in Southwest Arkansas,” said Nicholas K. Akins, AEP president and chief executive officer. “The provisions of the agreement are consistent with our commitment to renewable energy, energy efficiency and overall environmental stewardship.”

Duke Energy to retire more than 1,600 MW of coal-fired capacity

Duke Energy Carolinas will retire 1,667 MW of coal-fired capacity that does not have emissions control technology installed as part of an air permit-related settlement the utility reached with several environmental groups on Jan. 17.

Duke reached a settlement with the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Sierra Club to resolve an administrative challenge to an air permit for the 825-MW Cliffside Unit 6 in North Carolina.

The unit is under construction and near completion.

Duke previously committed to retiring 200 MW of older capacity at the Cliffside station when the new unit comes online in 2012 and retiring another 800 MW of capacity elsewhere by 2018.

However, the settlement calls for the retirement of 1,667 MW under a specific schedule that is enforceable. The settlement also calls for Duke Energy to demonstrate best practices to decrease emissions during malfunction, shut down and start up situations.

EPA Releases 2010 GHG Data

For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency released greenhouse gas data reported directly from large facilities and suppliers as a part of its GHG Reporting Program.

EPA’s online data publication tool allows users to view GHG data for 2010 from the largest GHG emitting facilities in the U.S. Users can navigate over 6,700 facilities in a variety of ways, including by facility, location, industrial sector, and the type of GHG emitted.

For example, power industry users can use the tool to view GHG emissions from power facilities within certain geographic regions.

The GHG data collected from 2010 showed that power plants were the largest stationary sources of direct GHG emissions, with 2,324 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The data also revealed that CO2 accounted for the largest share of direct GHG emissions with 95 percent.

Emissions Control Upgrade Planned for Homer City Plant

Edison Mission Energy said it is planning a $700 million environmental upgrade at the 1,884 MW Homer City coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania.

The company said it plans to add scrubbers to reduce mercury, sulfur dioxide and particulate emissions on the two units at the plant that began operating in 1969. A third unit built in 1977 had a scrubber installed about 10 years ago.

Environmental groups and agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection sued plant owners in 2011, but a federal judge in Pittsburgh dismissed the lawsuit, saying some of the claims were too old and others were superseded by state and federal laws.

The company said it plans to begin work in spring 2012 and complete it by 2014.

Vestas to Reduce Work Force by 10 percent

Vestas Wind Systems, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of wind turbines, announced plans to lay off 2,335 people worldwide and warned that an additional 1,600 jobs in the U.S. could be at risk if Congress does not extend the production tax credit.

Vestas Wind Turbine

Denmark-based Vestas said the layoffs were part of efforts to reduce fixed costs by more than $191 million as it deals with competition and a market slowdown following the global recession in 2008-2009.

Vestas said it would cut 1,300 jobs in Denmark; 450 in Spain, Italy, Germany and Sweden; 400 in China; and 182 in the U.S.

The company is preparing for further cuts in the U.S. if the production tax credit for wind power does not receive an extension. It is currently set to expire at the end of 2012.

Last year, Vestas laid off 3,000 workers after posting a 24-percent drop in profits in the third quarter.

NRC: Davis-Besse Nuclear Plant OK to Restart

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave the OK for a unit at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio to restart after a three-month-long outage.

Davis-Besse Plant

FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. told the NRC that it completed an outage at the plant to replace a reactor vessel head and perform other scheduled maintenance. The company also said it performed a thorough engineering analysis and assessment of its shield building and confirmed that the building’s structural integrity was sound.

This comes after the company found hairline cracks in the concrete outer shell at the one-unit plant on Oct. 10. More cracks were found on Nov. 1. The plant had been shut down since Oct. 1 to install the new reactor vessel head.

The cracks were mostly found near the main steam lines. Portions of the top 20 feet of the building also contained similar cracks.

Officials still don’t know what caused the small cracks in the concrete shell. The NRC has given FirstEnergy until the end of February to determine the cause. Davis-Besse officials are developing a long-term building monitoring plan.

Court Stays EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule

The U.S. District Court of Appeals granted a request to stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule pending further court review. The move delayed the Jan. 1 implementation of the rule.

EPA finalized the rule July 8, setting stricter limits on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants in 27 states. Since then, several states, including Kansas and Texas, and power producers such as Luminant, Westar Energy and American Electric Power Co. have sued the EPA, saying the original Jan. 1 start date did not give states and utilities enough time to meet limits on the greenhouse gases.

Luminant said CSAPR would force the company to get rid of 500 jobs, shut down three lignite coal mines and 1,300 MW of coal-fired units.

Luminant had planned to shut down units 1 and 2 at the Monticello coal-fired power plant on Jan. 1 to comply with CSAPR, but will continue to operate them now that a stay has been granted.

Other states challenging CSAPR include Louisiana, Nebraska, Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Renewable Energy Investments Set Record High in 2011

A report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance said that a sluggish economy did not hamper investments in new clean energy projects as they increased 5 percent to $260 billion in 2011, a record high.

Wind Solar

U.S. investments in renewable energy moved ahead of China for the first time since 2008, according to the latest data. U.S. projects saw an investment of $55.9 billion in 2011, up 33 percent from 2010. China’s investments increased 1 percent to $47.4 billion.

In 2011, investments in solar technology increased 36 percent to $136.6 billion, nearly double the $74.9 billion investment in wind power, which was down 17 percent from 2010. Biomass and waste-to-energy investments decreased 18 percent to $10.8 billion, geothermal dropped from $3.2 billion to $2.8 billion, small hydro decreased 25 percent to $3 billion and investments in marine technology were steady at $0.3 billion.

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