A settlement reached with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act will require Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) to invest about $300 million in pollution control technology, pay a civil penalty of $1.2 million, and spend $6 million on environmental mitigation projects.
The EPA filed a Notice of Violation against WPS in November 2009 alleging that the utility had not obtained the proper air permits for improvements it made to electric generating units to ensure electric reliability as far back as 1994. “WPS does not admit any wrongdoing,” the unit of Chicago-based Integrys Energy said in a statement last week.
"We acted then using what we believed to be the proper process for making the improvements," said WPS Vice President of Generation Assets Terry Jensky. "Many utilities across the country followed the same procedures and they have or are now facing similar action from the EPA."
The settlement announced on Friday covers the utility’s two power plants—the 421-MW Pulliam plant in Green Bay, Wis., and the 1,085-MW Weston plant in Rothschild, Wis. It requires WPS to install new pollution control technology on one of its largest units, to continuously operate the new and existing pollution controls, and to comply with stringent emission rates and annual tonnage limitations. The settlement also requires WPS to permanently retire, refuel, or repower four additional coal-fired units at the Pulliam and Weston plants.
“The actions taken by WPS to comply with this settlement will result in annual reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter emissions of approximately 15,000 tons from 2010 levels,” the EPA said. The settlement covers all eight coal-fired boilers at WPS’s two power plants.
WPS will also spend $6 million on projects that will benefit the environment and human health in communities located near the WPS facilities. Under the agreement, WPS must pay $250,000 each to the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service, to be used on projects to address the damage done from WPS’s alleged excess air emissions.
Up to $4 million will be spent on a renewable energy resource enhancement project, up to $1.2 million on a wood stove change-out project, and up to $300,000 on a community digester project. The remaining mitigation funding will be spent on either a compressed natural gas or hybrid fleet conversion project, or a solar panel installation project.
The settlement is the 25th secured by the Justice Department and EPA as part of a “national enforcement initiative to control emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements.” It was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
Sources: POWERnews, DOE, EPA, WPS