The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) imposition of a federal implementation plan (FIP) to curb regional haze that could force coal-fired power plants in Arizona to install $1 billion in pollution controls was challenged by the state in federal court last week.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne on Jan. 31 filed a Petition for Review on behalf of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the EPA’s plan to impose new haze restrictions. The measures would require installation of “prohibitively expensive” selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology at the Apache, Cholla, and Coronado power plants, the filing says.

Arizona Public Service operates the 1,027-MW Cholla coal plant in Joseph City; Salt River Project operates the 773-MW Coronado coal plant near St. John’s; and Arizona Electric Power Cooperative operates the 549-MW Apache plant in Cochise.

At dispute is the EPA’s December-finalized action to disapprove a part of Arizona’s state implementation plan (SIP) for its regional haze program and replace that portion with a federal plan. The SIP portion disapproved related to the state’s determination of best available retrofit technology (BART) to control emissions from eight units at the three coal-fired plants. Though the EPA approved the state’s determination that the plants were subject to emission limits for sulfur dioxide and particulate matter less than or equal to 10 micrometers at all the units, it rejected Arizona’s BART emissions limits for nitrogen oxides.

The EPA’s FIP imposes new, more stringent limits on nitrogen oxides, as well as a compliance schedule. It suggests some of the plants’ older units be equipped with SCR to keep 17,000 tons of nitrogen oxide from being released into the air and causing visibility issues at 18 national parks and wilderness areas.

“This attempt by the EPA has nothing to do with ensuring clean air and everything to do with trying to eliminate coal as a source of electricity,” Horne said. “The terrible irony of this is that the supposed improvement in visibility the EPA wants to achieve is not even visible to the human eye. These plants are being told to reduce haze that cannot even be seen and has no effect on a person’s health. That is ludicrous, and it causes a tremendous hardship to every Arizonan who uses electricity or drinks water; in other words, everyone.”

In January, the EPA separately proposed to require owners of the 2.3-GW coal-fired Navajo Generating Station (NGS) near the Arizona-Utah state line to install emission controls worth $1.1 billion to improve visibility at nearby national parks and wilderness areas.

Horne said that the EPA’s December-finalized FIP for the three coal plants could pose a threat to the NGS, which produces power to deliver to the Central Arizona Project Water (CAP). That would force “CAP to buy electricity on the open market. If that was to happen, CAP energy rates would be driven up at least 20 percent,” he said.

Sources: POWERnews, EPA, Office of the Arizona Attorney General

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)