Coal

Community and Environmental Organizations Push Michigan Public Service Commission to Reject DTE’s Long-Term Energy Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LANSING, MI – Environmental and community organizations today are calling for Michigan’s Public Service Commission to reject the proposed long-term energy plan from DTE following testimony from experts revealing how DTE’s plan will hold back a transition to cleaner, more affordable energy. Experts ranging from energy economists, renewable experts, and health professionals submitted testimony detailing significant flaws in DTE’s proposal.

Advocates argue that the plan would unnecessarily increase costs, rely too heavily on fossil fuels that should be retired much earlier, increase racial and economic inequity, and not invest enough in the clean energy resources that customers are increasingly demanding. Environmental and community organizations also call for a more transparent, fair, and inclusive planning process that would hold the state’s utilities accountable to Michigan customers.

The full case filing including testimony can be found here: https://sforce.co/2KMZROU.

The following are reactions from environmental, conservation and community organizations on DTE Energy’s proposed Integrated Resource Plan: 

“DTE has an opportunity to embrace a clean energy future for Michigan, but by submitting a plan that fails to seriously look at solar and wind power, battery storage, energy efficiency and demand response, it did not give itself that chance,” said Margrethe Kearney, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “This plan holds onto the old way of doing business, outdated strategies that don’t give DTE the flexibility to integrate clean, cost-effective renewables that benefit both Michigan’s economy and the environment.”

“We need a plan that puts people first, with health, affordability and community power at the forefront,” said Jackson Koeppel, Executive Director of Soulardarity. “DTE’s proposal is a transparent attempt to push the cost of their bad investments and abysmally poor management onto the low-income communities and communities of color they have been dumping pollution and rate hikes on for their entire career. DTE is intentionally ignoring community solar and other local solutions because they care more about how much money their investors will make next quarter than the lives of the millions of people they claim to serve.”

“DTE’s plan is supposed to be a vision for powering homes and businesses across the state. Instead, it’s left Michigan’s environmental justice communities feeling stripped of power,” said Michelle Martinez, statewide coordinator for the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. “If we want real climate justice, the process must change, must be inclusive, and must hold DTE accountable.”

“DTE’s IRP treats both carbon emissions and cost impacts on ratepayers as an afterthought, instead of a priority that needs to be addressed,” said Alexis Blizman, Policy Director at the Ecology Center. “DTE must expand energy efficiency, as well as include greater investments in clean, renewable energy, like wind and solar, to protect ratepayers against both the harmful impacts of continuing the use of fossil fuels, as well as the price volatility of natural gas. The Commission should reject DTE’s proposed IRP and send them back to create a plan that protects both people and planet.”

“DTE’s IRP is consistent with a century-old monopoly stuck in traditional solutions,” said John Richter, Policy Analyst at Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association. “DTE has proposed utility-owned wind parks in just enough quantity to meet their legal obligations and the demands of their largest customers for green energy. While the GLREA welcomes the proposed renewable energy facilities, the assumptions formed in the overall plan are faulty and mired in the past. This plan needs substantial revision.”

“DTE’s current proposal to keep coal online for the next 20 years will have vast and far-reaching implications on the health, safety, and well-being of families across Michigan,” said Kindra Weid, RN and Coalition Coordinator of MI Air MI Health.

“Integrated resource plans are incredibly important for mapping out our energy future. It’s critical that the plans the MPSC ultimately approves are based on sound analysis,” said Charlotte Jameson, energy policy and legislative affairs director of Michigan Environmental Council. “DTE submitted a plan riddled with flaws that bias the outcome away from clean, renewable energy. These errors are clear to see, especially when you compare their plan with the one Consumers Energy submitted. As intervenors charged with protecting Michigan’s environment and residential ratepayers, we will continue to weigh in on each step of this IRP process to make sure we get the best outcome for Michigan’s residents.”

“DTE’s long-range plan fails to rein in exploding electricity costs that are burdening families and businesses,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “Michiganders are seeing the negative effects of climate change every day — from flooded basements and farm fields to spreading algae in the Great Lakes and scorching droughts. It is time for DTE to move aggressively toward clean, renewable energy instead of delaying investments in solar and wind power and opening new, expensive gas plants.”

“DTE’s plan yet again shortchanges their customers’ clean energy future in favor of more expensive fossil fuels,” said Ariana Gonzalez, senior energy policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “They clearly ignored the massive tide of criticism from their last proposal that led to a billion-dollar gas plant. This is why we must set a precedent in this case to ensure clean, safe and affordable energy for all.”

“DTE’s peaker fleet, which is primarily used to meet heavy loads on hot summer afternoons, contain some of the oldest units of their type still in operation,” said Sean Gallagher, Vice President of State Affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “DTE failed to provide any analysis on its peaker fleet and simply proposes to run its aging fossil fuel units for another 20 years.  By contrast, we analyzed how these failing units could be successfully and reliably replaced with clean, reliable solar + storage assets. The Michigan Public Service Commission should require DTE to analyze a move to cleaner peaking resources to reduce costs, lower emissions and expand solar deployment.”

“Instead of protecting clean water, clean air, and our communities, DTE chooses to invest in their pocketbooks by doubling down on expensive, polluting fossil fuels,” said Theresa Landrum, Detroit resident and activist with Sierra Club. “We call on the Michigan Public Service Commission to reject DTE’s polluting energy plan.  Alternatively, we ask the MPSC to require them to design a plan that protects Michiganders and those living in the most heavily impacted communities by investing in cheaper and cleaner renewable energy sources, efficiency programs, and storage technology.”

“DTE’s plan to keep relying on coal plants for the next two decades fails to account for the health, climate, and financial impacts of burning coal,” said Shannon Fisk, Managing Attorney of Earthjustice’s Coal Program. “DTE overestimated the costs of replacing coal plants with renewables, storage, and efficiency because the company relied on flawed and outdated assumptions, instead of actual market data. Michiganders would benefit most, in terms of cost and health, from aggressive replacement of coal plants with cost-effective and reliable clean energy.

“DTE’s plan favors its own expensive power plants over a truly robust process to ensure cleaner and more affordable energy for Michigan customers. I’ve seen utility commissions reject resource plans for far less egregious missteps,” said Joe Daniel, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “DTE overestimated the cost of renewables, underestimated the benefits of efficiency, all the while ignoring risks associated with the way it operates its existing fleet of coal-fired power plants. The Michigan Public Service Commission should send this plan back to the company and insist that DTE take seriously its obligation to fairly evaluate all resource options, especially earlier investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

“Solar and other clean energy options have quickly become some of America’s lowest cost resources, and every Michigander should be able to benefit from these affordable, healthy, homegrown options. Instead, DTE is trying to double down on polluting gas and get away with offering only a very small utility-controlled green power program that will cost customers a premium when it should be delivering savings,” said Will Kenworthy, Midwest Regulatory Director with Vote Solar. “This expensive plan will put solar out of reach for many low-income families, seniors on fixed incomes, environmental justice communities and others who shouldn’t be shut out from the clean economy, which is why we’re joining together with allies today to urge a stronger, healthier and more resilient path forward for DTE.”

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Milestone Bill to Clean Up Coal Ash Pollution in Illinois Becomes Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Milestone Bill to Clean Up Coal Ash Pollution in Illinois Becomes Law

The Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act is a critical step in fixing Illinois’ coal ash problem

*Note a teleconference with activists and legal experts will be held at 4:00pm CST to speak about the impacts of the law. Dial (605) 313-5111, Access Code 643244

CONTACT: Al Grosboll | Environmental Law & Policy Center | AGrosboll@elpc.org (217) 652-3866

 

SPRINGFIELD, IL—Today, bipartisan legislation to protect Illinois’ citizens and the environment from the effects of toxic coal ash became law. The  Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act will result in stronger rules for coal ash cleanup and fund cleanup programs through permit fees — while also requiring performance bonds or other financial security to ensure that companies set aside the money to close and clean up coal ash ponds.

The legislation creates a regulatory framework to ensure polluters, not taxpayers, pay for needed closure and cleanup, guarantees public participation and transparency around cleanups for affected communities, and provides Illinois EPA the funds it needs to properly oversee closure and cleanup. It also requires Illinois to put in place standards for coal ash impoundments that are at least as protective as federal coal ash rule requirements, with additional protection against dust and water pollution.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Bennett and Rep. Carol Ammons, passed the Illinois Legislature in May. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law today.

The legislation was badly needed. Organizations and community leaders have demanded state action for years. A recent report by Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, Prairie Rivers Network and Sierra Club found widespread pollution in groundwater around 22 of the state’s 24 coal ash dumpsites. Pollutants found in nearby groundwater include arsenic, cobalt and lithium. That report found that Illinois is one of the worst states in the nation for pollution from coal ash pits.

Iconic Illinois landscapes such as the Middle Fork of the Vermillion River, the State’s only Wild and Scenic River are threatened by leaking coal ash impoundments constructed under loose regulations or no regulations whatsoever.

Now that the bill has become law, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) will begin writing and proposing draft rules. The Illinois Pollution Control Board (PCB) will finalize the IEPA rules once they are approved. Both the rulemaking proposal process by IEPA and the approval process by PCB will allow stakeholders and community members to provide input before the final rules are put in place.

“This coal ash legislation is an important environmental protection success to protect safe, clean and drinkable water in Illinois,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “ELPC is pleased that Gov. Pritzker signed SB 9 because it will protect our water quality, air quality and public health.”

 

STATEWIDE PARTNER QUOTES

“Thank you to Governor Pritzker for signing the landmark Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act,” said Andrew Rehn with Prairie Rivers Network, “We would not be here today with the incredible leadership from Senator Bennett and Representative Ammons and heroic efforts from community groups across the state. We are now taking the first steps in cleaning up the toxic coal ash stored in unlined pits across Illinois.”

“With this law, Illinois is joining other states that are working to protect their citizens from toxic pollution from coal ash dumps,” said Jennifer Cassel, an Earthjustice coal program attorney  based in Chicago. “For too long, utilities have been allowed to dump this pollution into unlined pits with no regard for the consequences. That will no longer be the case in Illinois.”

“By signing this bill into law, Gov. Pritzker has taken a historic step in protecting communities and the environment from dangerous coal ash pollution across Illinois,” said Colleen Smith, legislative director for the Illinois Environmental Council. “Now, polluters will be held responsible for the clean up of their toxic waste–not residents of Illinois.”

“The communities of faith represented by Faith In Place Action Fund applaud the Governor signing SB9 into law. Illinois joins other states that are putting its residents’ health before industrial polluters’ profit. We look forward to working with IEPA to engage communities most affected by coal ash on the rulemaking process.” Celeste Flores, Faith in Place Action Fund

“This is the most significant step to protect clean water and public health that has made it into law in years. People across the state who have struggled with the impacts of toxic coal ash are grateful that their calls for action to protect our groundwater and hold big polluters accountable have been heard. It’s now critical that the Illinois EPA develop the strongest possible coal ash rules with community input to ensure that this historic bill realizes its promise for coal ash communities across Illinois,” said Joyce Blumenshine of the Sierra Club.

 

REGIONAL PARTNER QUOTES

Wood River/Alton/Metro East

“It is always encouraging when people who have long felt ignored and powerless discover that someone finally listened. Metro East Green Alliance members have worked for several years to get the Texas-based coal giant Dynegy and the previous Rauner administration to do the right thing–to clean up the Wood River Power Plant that was shuttered over three years ago in a responsible way and to compensate the vulnerable community left unemployed and at increased health risk,” said Toni Oplt, MEGA member. “Now that SB9 is law, we feel the state legislature, Governor Prizker and IEPA have, at last, pulled up a chair for us at the table. We have faith they will continue to listen as the SB9 rulemaking for coal ash cleanup and the accompanying requirements for corporate financial assurances move forward.”

Waukegan

“This is a great win for Coal Ash Communities, especially for Waukegan residents that have been continuously affected by corporate polluters. The Governor is putting the State of Illinois in a good trajectory in signing SB9 into law, by sending a message that environmental justice communities across the state are being put before profitable industrial polluters like NRG Energy. Waukegan residents commend Governor Pritzker and our state legislators for making SB9 into law. Our land is our children’s future and we look forward to the state of Illinois to continue strengthening protections for our vulnerable environmental justice communities.” Dulce Ortiz, Clean Power Lake County

Vermilion County/Danville/Champaign

“We are so pleased that Governor Pritzker has signed Senate Bill 9 into law”, said Pam Richart, Co-Director of Eco-Justice Collaborative. “Community calls to clean up pollution from coal ash dumped on dozens of power plant sites across the state, including the unlined, leaking pits along the Middle Fork of the Vermilion, Illinois’ National Scenic River, have been ignored for far too long. This bill ensures that those living near coal ash will have a say in how these dumps are cleaned up, so that water quality, public health, and local economies are protected.”

“The Protect the Middle Fork Citizens Advisory Group sincerely thanks Governor Pritzker for signing SB9. This bill will help keep Illinois water resources clean in perpetuity; ensure that communities like ours have a voice in how polluting coal ash pits impacting our water are closed; and require financial assurances for coal ash impoundment closures. This is a good day for Illinois!” Protect the Middle Fork Citizens Advocacy Group

Peoria

“This legislation is a critical step forward in ensuring that frontline communities like Peoria, impacted by coal ash pollution, are protected and won’t be left behind as we transition to a clean energy economy. We applaud the leadership of community members and legislators who have pushed for stronger coal ash protections and now it’s critical that the Illinois EPA propose the strongest rules possible with public input from those most impacted.” Reverend Tony Pierce, President of Illinois People’s Action and Heaven’s View Christian Fellowship in Peoria.

“The Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance applauds the Governor signing SB 9, showing his commitment to communities that live with the prospect of abandoned coal ash pits and the toxins that threaten both groundwater and the Illinois River. The Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act will protect communities by demanding real financial assurances instead of allowing these continually reorganizing energy profiteers to insure themselves,” said Tracy Fox, Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance.

IL Pollution Control Board Advances Controversial Coal Pollution Rule for Vistra Energy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Pollution Control Board Advances Controversial Coal Pollution Rule for Vistra Energy

Environmental and Community groups’ welcome Pritzker improvements to Rauner pollution rule but call for stronger pollution reduction plans from Administration

CHICAGO – Today, the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) approved a rulemaking initiated in 2017 under the Rauner Administration that allows Vistra Energy, the Texas-based owner of Illinois largest coal plant fleet, greater flexibility to operate its plants with less stringent, state pollution standards. Since proposed, the revisions to one of Illinois’ signature air pollution standards, known as the Multi-Pollutant Standard (MPS), generated significant public opposition across the state and drew greater speculation on the close ties Rauner’s IEPA Director had with polluting industries though important improvements were made to the original proposal by both the IPCB and new IEPA leadership under the Pritzker Administration, environmental and community groups continue to seek stronger standards.

The new emissions caps change the existing standards based on emissions rates to a total tonnage standard which environmental and community advocates argue is less protective and will allow Vistra to shutter plants with pollution controls while continuing to operate its dirtiest plants without installing modern pollution controls. Those advocates contend that this could result in some communities seeing greater pollution from the plants that remain open and continue to operate without modern pollution controls. Notable improvements in the final approved proposal include lower emissions caps than originally proposed by Rauner’s IEPA, cap reductions if Vistra seeks to shutter or sell power plants, and a requirement to retire 2,000 MWs of its Illinois coal generation by the end of 2019.

The approval comes on the heels of yesterday’s federal rollback of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. The alternative plan, dubbed the “Dirty Power Plan” by advocates, is little more than a giveaway to the coal industry. With rollbacks at the federal level, state action becomes all the more important and advocates urge the Pritzker administration to take stronger action.

 In response to the IPCB’s decision, the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Peoples’ Action, Metro East Green Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Illinois Sierra Club, Respiratory Health Association, Prairie Rivers Network, and Union of Concerned Scientists issued the following joint statement:

“We’re pleased to see that important improvements to this rulemaking were won today by the thousands of Illinois residents who spoke out in opposition to this ill-conceived rule from the Rauner Administration and Vistra Energy. However, as President Trump continues to rollback federal environmental protections, Illinois should be leading with far more aggressive pollution standards on power plants instead of granting greater flexibility to a Texas fossil fuel corporation.

“We welcome Vistra Energy’s commitment to retire some of its Illinois plants–that it has said for years were likely to retire–but the new standards still allow Vistra to close plants with modern pollution controls and continue running its dirtiest plants without any modern upgrades which will leave frontline communities in Illinois at risk.

“As these out-of-state coal corporations continue to demand coal bailouts from state regulators and legislators, it’s critical that the Pritzker Administration and Illinois officials step up with stronger leadership to deliver more aggressive pollution reductions from aging power plants and plans to invest in Illinois coal workers and communities that will inevitably be left behind by these out-of-state corporations.”

 

 

 

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IL Pollution Control Board Finds NRG Energy’s Subsidiary Responsible for Polluting Groundwater with Toxic Coal Ash

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Illinois Pollution Control Board Finds NRG Energy’s Subsidiary Responsible for Violating Illinois Groundwater Standards with Toxic Coal Ash Contaminants

Environmental groups’ lawsuit hailed as a historic victory for clean water in four communities; puts state coal plant operators on notice

CHICAGO – Today the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) agreed with environmental groups in their lawsuit against Midwest Generation, LLC, a subsidiary of NRG Energy, alleging that four of its coal power plants contaminated groundwater with harmful chemicals found in coal ash. The pollution at those four coal power plants, located in Waukegan, Joliet, Pekin, and Will County, put the densely populated communities around the plants at risk. This is a major victory in a case started in 2012 by the environmental groups (Sierra Club, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Prairie Rivers Network, and Citizens Against Ruining the Environment).

The IPCB agreed with the groups’ claim that the contaminants from coal ash at the power plants, including arsenic, boron, sulfate, and other chemicals, routinely exceeded water quality standards and, thus, violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. The groups alleged that NRG Energy’s subsidiary Midwest Generation, which has owned or operated the four power plants since 1999, knew about coal ash contaminants both in and outside coal ash ponds and failed to prevent groundwater contamination.

The next step in this case will be a determination of remedy. The environmental groups will fight for the most stringent remedy possible, including a demand for removal of coal ash dumps at the coal power plants.

“Today is a huge victory for Waukegan residents who have fought for years to see corporations like NRG Energy held accountable for the toxic waste that has been illegally dumped on our Lake Michigan lakefront,” said Dulce Ortiz, Waukegan resident and Co-Chair of Clean Power Lake County. “The Pollution Control Board’s decision is a sharp rebuttal to NRG and Midwest Generation’s claims that they weren’t responsible for groundwater contamination from its dangerous coal ash waste. It’s critical that NRG is required to remove its toxic ash from our lakefront.”

“Today’s decision is a historic win for Citizens’ Against Ruining the Environment and Will County residents who have carried the burden of living next to NRG’s aging power plants and toxic coal ash waste for decades,” said Ellen Rendulich, Romeoville resident and Director of Citizens Against Ruining the Environment. “Our communities deserve to have this out-of-state corporation’s waste removed from these sites and NRG must be responsible for this clean up.”

“There is a moral obligation to ensure that polluters are held accountable for the impact they have on the groundwater of Illinois communities,” said Faith Bugel, Attorney for Sierra Club. “ The Board’s decision calls NRG out, and we urge the Board to impose a remedy that holds out-of-state companies accountable for cleaning up the pollution they dump in Illinois.”

“The Board’s decision affirms the broad scope of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act’s prohibition on water pollution and puts owners or operators of sites with coal ash on notice of their obligation to not pollute groundwater,” said Jeffrey Hammons, Attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Companies that run afoul of Illinois’ groundwater quality standards due to their improper handling of coal ash do so at their own peril.”

“The owners of these plants tried to deny that the groundwater was contaminated, and they even tried to deny that they knew anything about all of the coal ash buried across their properties,” said Abel Russ, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, which represented Prairie Rivers Network before the Board. “The reality is that coal ash on their property continues to contaminate groundwater. We are pleased and grateful that the Board could see through the smokescreen, and that they chose to stand up for Illinois’ natural resources.”

“Today’s decision is an important step in holding polluters accountable for their coal ash messes,” said Andrew Rehn, Water Resources Engineer at Prairie Rivers Network. “NRG’s coal ash ponds at Waukegan, Joliet, Pekin, and Will County have been polluting our groundwater for years. We hope that the Illinois Pollution Control Board makes NRG remove the coal ash dumps on their property and store it in safe facilities.”

 

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EPA’s Proposed Weakening of Mercury Pollution Reduction Standards (MATS) Threatens Children’s and Women’s Health, and Great Lakes Fisheries

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes, 773-892-7494, JNemes@elpc.org

Environmental Protection Agency’s Proposed Weakening of Mercury Pollution Reduction Standards (MATS) Threatens Children’s and Women’s Health, and Great Lakes Fisheries

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

“The Trump EPA’s proposal to weaken mercury and air toxics pollution reduction standards threatens children’s health and the Great Lakes. State public health officials continue to issue ‘mercury advisories’ warning people, especially young children and pregnant women, to limit their intake of fish from most of the Great Lakes and inland lakes in the Midwest. Sadly, it’s not safe for many people to eat the fish that they catch in the Great Lakes.

The Trump EPA’s proposal undermines MATS by retroactively recalculating the costs and benefits of the rule, which most utilities have already fully implemented. The misguided proposed changes leave MATS legally vulnerable and foolishly make it harder to strengthen mercury pollution reduction standards in the future to better protect children’s and women’s health, and Great Lakes fisheries.

Mercury is a known neurotoxin that impairs fetal brain development when it gets into pregnant women’s bloodstreams and crosses the placental barrier. Most coal plants have already installed pollution control systems for mercury in response to the MATS rule that the U.S. EPA issued in 2011. The U.S. EPA should not reverse course and loosen the way co-benefits are analyzed in the future that could lead to softening future standards. Coal plants’ owners should continue to install and operate modern pollution control equipment to reduce mercury and other toxic air pollution. These are common sense safeguards.

The Trump EPA’s rollback skews the regulatory benefit-cost analysis by excluding the important real world co-benefits of reducing pollutants that harm public health and the environment. This flies in the face of sound benefit-cost analysis, and it comes at the expense of our children’s health.

The Trump EPA should not lose sight of its core mission, which includes protecting the public’s health from mercury and other dangerous air toxics.”

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Energywire: Board Shuts Down Vistra Effort to Fast-Track Coal Plant Ruling

Board shuts down Vistra effort to fast-track coal plant ruling

November 5, 2018

By Jeffrey Tomich

The Illinois Pollution Control Board denied a request by Vistra Energy Corp. to expedite new rules that would let the company run its dirtier and more profitable coal plants in the state more frequently.

In an order last week, the five-member board said the Irving, Texas-based power producer’s claims of “economic harms” didn’t justify an expedited rulemaking.

“The board is not convinced that the need to address wholesale energy market issues should control the substance or timing of proposed amendments to a substantive environmental regulation,” the six-page order said.

The order comes a month after the board proposed modifications to Illinois’ Multi-Pollutant Standard (MPS) that includes pollution limits for Vistra’s 18 coal units representing more than 5,000 megawatts (Energywire, Oct. 5).

The Pollution Control Board’s proposal is a sort of compromise between the power producer’s effort to get relief from existing emissions rules and critics, including Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) and a coalition of environmental groups, which want to keep existing standards in place.

Vistra had asked the board to finalize the rule change by Feb. 1, after which it would be subject to review by a legislative committee before taking effect. Madigan and environmental advocates challenged the request.

Vistra CEO Curt Morgan told analysts during a Friday conference call that the board’s proposal is “reasonable and fair” and he now expects a final outcome in April or May, after which the company could make decisions related to the future of its Illinois coal fleet.

The power producer has suggested it may shutter coal units in southern Illinois based on what executives view as inadequate capacity payments — payments made to ensure power plants are ready to run during periods of peak demand.

Morgan said Vistra is continuing work to “optimize” its Illinois portfolio and believes it can achieve a “reasonably significant” improvement in earnings from its Illinois plants. The company will be ready to act on that plan as soon as it gets an outcome from the Pollution Control Board.

“We’re going to be in a position to execute immediately,” Morgan said. “If the deal goes through the way it is now, we know what we would do. It’s just a matter of timing. But we also have been contingency planning, so if something else happened, then we would be prepared for that, as well.”

A possible wild card in the administrative rulemaking process? Politics.

Illinois voters will elect a governor tomorrow, and polls point to Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker defeating incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner.

Pritzker earlier this year criticized the rule proposed at Vistra’s request by the Illinois EPA.

In response to a questionnaire sent to candidates by the Chicago Sun-Times, the Democrat said of the proposed MPS rule change: “I will stand on the side of science and reason and not scrap limits on pollution.”

But would a new governor, during his first months in office and facing a fiscal crisis, step in and derail an administrative rule initiated by his predecessor?

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, one of the groups challenging Vistra’s petition, believes a Pritzker administration would reassess the state’s position on the rule proposal.

“You’re dealing with a proposal that came from the Illinois EPA,” he said.

While the board wouldn’t explicitly seek out a new governor’s stance before issuing a ruling, Learner said he believes this week’s election will provide important context for their decision.

“They’ll be interested to hear what [the administration’s] position is if a new governor is elected,” he said.

READ FULL STORY

Energy News Network: Illinois Pollution Board Proposes New Emissions Rules in Dynegy Coal Saga

Illinois pollution board proposes new emissions rules in Dynegy coal saga

By Kari Lydersen

The Illinois Pollution Control Board is taking public comments on an amended emissions rule for Dynegy’s coal plants in the state.

Last year, the pollution control board had put forth rules written by the Illinois EPA with much input — even line edits — from Dynegy itself, as emails and documents obtained by environmental groups showed.

Clean air advocates say the new proposed rules are better than those earlier ones but still do not do enough to limit pollution from the aging coal plants.

“They are lower than what Illinois EPA was proposing and lower than what Dynegy is asking for, but still significantly higher than what the company has emitted in recent years,” said James Gignac, lead Midwest energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The company Vistra, which acquired Dynegy this year, released a statement saying it supports the pollution control board’s proposal, which includes stricter emissions caps than those previously recommended but keeps intact what’s known as a mass-based approach, in which the company gets a flat, fleet-wide cap instead of one based on the amount of power generated, or a rate-based approach. The proposal also includes a measure ardently backed by clean air advocates: that when a plant closes or is “mothballed,” the emissions it had been allowed be removed from the total cap.

Clean air advocates say they feel they are now in a waiting game, with much hanging on the public comment period and how the board responds to comments, including whether it makes total emissions caps for the plants stricter.

Dirty and clean plants

Opponents of the mass-based approach fear it will let Dynegy continue running or ramp up its dirtier coal plants, while potentially closing or ramping down cleaner plants that are more expensive to run.

“Any plant under a mass-based approach can pollute more and another one can pollute less — it still means an older plant with less pollution control can up its emissions,” said Toba Pearlman, staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “[The recent proposal] is probably good for Vistra and bad for the people that live around the plants… We do think this is part of a larger strategy for Dynegy to squeeze Illinois for more money on their plants.”

The NRDC and Sierra Club in May released a report showing that Dynegy’s coal plants could close without affecting Illinois’ energy supply, noting the plants’ output could be replaced with renewable energy.

Vistra’s statement praised the latest proposal for allowing the company “the flexibility to assess and optimize its fleet of power plants to compete in the market.” It added that while Vistra’s subsidiary Luminant, which controls the plants, “supported the IEPA proposal, the company believes the IPCB proposal to be thoughtful and reasonable. Luminant will work constructively through the remainder of the process and looks forward to fully implementing the new standards.”

Dynegy acquired the five plants in 2013, with then-owner Ameren practically paying the company to take them off its hands. Since then Dynegy has worked on multiple fronts to try to keep the plants profitable, including a failed attempt to include supports in the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act and an ongoing effort to change capacity market structures or switch markets, along with pushing for less stringent pollution requirements.

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, noted that the pollution limits being amended have been on the books for a decade.

“They had plenty of time to adjust and retrofit their plants to come into compliance,” he said. “When Dynegy bought those plants, they knew what the standards were. And when Vistra bought Dynegy, they knew…but when the deadline came, they turned to a backroom deal.”

READ FULL STORY

 

Midwest Energy News: Coal Closings May Undermine FirstEnergy’s Attempt to Shift Plant to Bankrupt Subsidiary


Coal Closings May Undermine FirstEnergy’s Attempt to Shift Plant to Bankrupt Subsidiary

By Kathiann M. Kowalski

FirstEnergy wants to transfer a West Virginia coal plant into its bankrupt subsidiary’s portfolio, but the justification for the move is in doubt as the company seeks other coal plant closures.

On August 26, FirstEnergy Solutions’ Chief Restructuring Officer Charles Moore told the bankruptcy court in Ohio that “another coal-fired power station … would add purchasing power to enhance the value to the Debtors’ enterprise.”

Yet FirstEnergy had already scheduled the Pleasants Power Station in West Virginia to close next year.

And just three days after Moore’s declaration, FirstEnergy Solutions announced it would close the Eastlake coal plant and remaining coal and diesel units at the Sammis plant in Ohio, along with 2,490 megawatts of capacity at the Bruce Mansfield coal plant in Pennsylvania.

Environmental advocates welcomed the shutdown news. “This will mark the end of FirstEnergy’s coal portfolio in the state of Ohio,” said Dan Sawmiller, Ohio energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

First Energy Solutions President Don Moul said in an August 29 press release announcing the latest planned closures: “As with nuclear, our fossil-fueled plants face the insurmountable challenge of a market that does not sufficiently value their contribution to the security and flexibility of our power system.”

At the same time, the company could reverse its decision if the federal government mandates support for fossil and nuclear generating plants.

Either way, the timing raises questions about who benefits from the proposed transfer, and how it might affect consumers or taxpayers.

“What’s good for FirstEnergy here is not necessarily good for the public,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

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Indy Star: Trump EPA’s New Energy Plan Tries to Save Coal Industry, but Puts Public Health at Risk

by Sarah Bowman

Under a new federal energy proposal aimed at dismantling Obama-era limits on greenhouse gas emissions, Indiana utilities could scrap plans to shut down several coal-fired power plants.

It’s unclear how the utilities will react if the plan released Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency is eventually adopted, but advocates and opponents are already lining up.

Coal industry officials see the Affordable Clean Energy plan proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration as a life preserver at a time when utility executives are increasingly turning to natural gas and renewable energy sources.

“We are very hopeful and encouraged that this will now provide the opportunity for utilities in Indiana who have announced or are considering coal plant closures, that there will be some reconsideration,” said Bruce Stevens, president of the Indiana Coal Council.

But the Trump Administration’s own analysis predicts the plan would put higher levels of dangerous pollutants in the air, causing as many as 1,500 additional premature deaths annually by 2030 from heart and lung disease.

The proposal is expected to meet stern resistance from people concerned about climate change and air pollution, during what is expected to be a lengthy approval process.

“The Trump proposal is unlawful, unacceptable and won’t succeed at saving the coal industry,” said Wendy Bredhold, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal efforts in Indiana. “Trump’s Dirty Power Plan won’t stop our progress.”

Whether the plan is eventually adopted, or becomes tied up in litigation like a previous Obama proposal remains an open question.

 

 

McCabe, who worked on the Obama Administration’s plan, sees the Trump plan as undermining efforts to slow climate change and protect public health. “I think this plan shows there is no commitment from the current administration to address climate change,” she said. “Zero.”

She said the word “health” is rarely mentioned in the plan, “but that is what the Clean Air program is about, protecting public health and welfare and the environment.”

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Cleveland Plain Dealer: Davis-Besse Closure Needs to Be Adequately Funded by First Energy

Closing Davis-Besse will be “devastating” to community, says NRC manager

by John Funk

PORT CLINTON, Ohio — An unexpectedly small crowd showed up Tuesday evening  at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s annual meeting to talk about the performance of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant.

Davis-Besse’s more than 600 employees operated the plant safely with one minor citation, said NRC managers.

Surprisingly, the small turnout had few questions about FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company’s announcement in April that it would close Davis-Besse  by May 31, 2020.

James Cameron, an NRC manager responsible for power plant inspections, said Davis-Besse’s closing would be “devastating” when asked by a Toledo reporter what the impact of the closing would be on the community.

Cameron said close scrutiny by on-site resident inspectors would continue — with an eye toward determining whether the closing is affecting the morale of the plant employees,whether the company is managing to keep staffing levels adequate to safely operate the plant or whether the backlog of maintenance projects is developing.

“At this point, we have not identified any problems at the plant attributive to financial issues,” he said.

Shawn Harwell, an NRC financial analyst responsible for determining whether the trust funds established to pay for decommissioning are sufficient, said the funds were adequate as of March 2017, the last publicly available decommissioning report FENOC filed with the NRC.

. . . .

The Midwest-based Environmental Law and Policy Center and several other consumer and environmental groups raised the issue of inadequate decommissioning funds with the NRC in March, just days before the company petitioned for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Howard Learner, executive director of the ELPC said SAFSTOR will prevent towns that hosted nuclear power plants from re-developing the land for many decades.

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