Agreement allows AEP’s Rockport plant to avoid “scrubbers” until 2028

February 27, 2013- by Sonal Patel in POWERnews. Editor’s Note: Valley Watch was one of the original litigants in the suit filed in 1999. However, it dropped out of the suit in late 2007 since AEP was going to be given until 2018 to put scrubbers on the plant. Valley Watch believed at the time that 2018 was to far in the future for scrubbers to be placed on the plant and dropped out instead of signing the 2007 Consent Decree. Under the new Consent Decree signed this week, AEP will be given an additional ten years, until 2028 to install scrubber technology, making Rockport, IN little more than a SACRIFICE ZONE so that people in southern Michigan and northeast Indiana to avoid paying higher electric rates scrubber installation would entail.

AEP's Rockport plant, a 2,600 MW behemoth located in Rockport, IN will not have to install scrubbers until 2028 under an agreement signed by several environmental groups and the EPA this week. Photo © 2013 John Blair

AEP’s Rockport plant, a 2,600 MW behemoth located in Rockport, IN will not have to install scrubbers until 2028 under an agreement signed by several environmental groups and the EPA this week. Photo © 2013 John Blair

A modified settlement reached between American Electric Power (AEP), a coalition of citizen groups, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday will allow the utility to install less expensive pollution controls on a coal-fired power plant if it ceases coal combustion by 2015 at three aging power plants in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.

The agreement is a modification of a New Source Review (NSR) consent decree reached in 2007 (from a federal court lawsuit filed in 1999) between AEP, the EPA, eight eastern states, and 13 citizen groups. AEP initiated the modification of the consent decree. It will allow the utility company to install dry sorbent injection technology on both units of its 2.6-GW Rockport Generating Station in southern Indiana—not flue gas desulfurization (FGD) technology, a more expensive option, as stipulated in the original 2007 consent decree , the company told POWERnews.

Under terms of the agreement reached on Monday, AEP will retire or refuel with natural gas the 500-MW coal-fired Tanners Creek Generating Station Unit 4 in Indiana, a unit that AEP had planned to retrofit with emissions controls. The agreement will also require that the company retire or refuel the 600-MW Muskingum River Power Plant Unit 5 in Ohio, which AEP said it had planned to do as part of its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) compliance plan. And it gives AEP the option of retiring the 800-MW Big Sandy Power Plant Unit 2 in Kentucky. AEP subsidiary Kentucky Power in December alreadyannounced it would retire that unit by 2015 and is now expected to decide on the future of that plant’s 278-MW Unit 1.

Along with allowing the utility to install less-expensive emission control equipment at the Rockport plant, the agreement will require AEP to retire the two Rockport units (built in 1984 and 1989) by 2025 and 2028 or install additional controls to remove at least 98% of its sulfur dioxide emissions. But the agreement would provide flexibility for the company’s Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) compliance plan for some of its other facilities, AEP spokesperson Melissa McHenry told POWERnews on Monday.

The modification to the consent decree also includes a lower system-wide sulfur dioxide emission cap for AEP plants that will take effect in 2016 and become increasingly stringent until 2029. “The additional SO2reductions track what we expected to achieve with our compliance plan for the [MATS] rule,” McHenry said.

AEP also pledged to develop 50 MW of wind or solar power this year and another 150 MW of wind or solar power in Indiana or Michigan by 2015 as part of the agreement, and will invest $2.5 million to improve air quality in Indiana.

Parties involved with the settlement include the states of New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Citizens groups include the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ohio Citizen Action, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, and the Hoosier Environmental Council.

In a joint statement on Monday, those groups hailed the modified settlement as a major victory. “This agreement is only the latest sign of progress as our country continues to transition away from dirty, dangerous, and expensive coal-fired power plants,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

The groups cited the Clean Air Task Force, which reportedly estimated that “203 deaths, 310 heart attacks, 3,160 asthma attacks, and 188 emergency room visits per year will be averted once the Muskingum River, Tanners Creek and Big Sandy power plants stop burning coal.”

Sources: POWERnews, AEP, Sierra Club

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)

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6 Responses to Agreement allows AEP’s Rockport plant to avoid “scrubbers” until 2028

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  4. Tom says:

    I live in Spencer County and see thisdaily, currentl they are in the process of building a fertilizer plant, coal gasification plant and turkey facility, I am retiring this year and plan on being in florida by 2015, I can tell my asthma is getting worse and have been to doctor numerous times yet the powers that make these regs dont have to breathe the air down here, it is a very sad bubch of people that can dictate and harm the health of others all in the name of profit

  5. Real says:

    Coal gets blames for everything. Come on now, Tom. Your asthma is getting worse, probably because that’s what typically happens when you age. I know that the Rockport plant has AND is putting pollutant-catching systems in place to limit what leaves the plant into the air. Sometimes people just can’t admit that they are getting older and/or more unhealthy. Always have to find someone else to blame.

    • John Blair says:

      The Rockport plant is and has always been on elf the dirtiest plants in the nation. And it does not even serve any area that would be considered in a reasonable proximity. Therefore, AEP is a carpetbagger whose intent was to keep their service territory relatively clean while foisting ill health on the people who are forced to breathe and otherwise consume their nasty emissions. Yes, they are to blame although they at re not the entire problem.

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