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Kansas City BPU/Unified Government settle dispute with Sierra Club over coal plant emissions

From the June 24, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published June 24, 2013

The Board of Public Utilities/Unified Government in Kansas City, Kan., said June 21 it has entered into a consent agreement with the Sierra Club to settle allegations by the environmental group over emissions from two coal-fired power plants. The Sierra Club alleges that opacity levels at the BPU's Nearman and Quindaro power plants have exceeded levels allowed under the air permits for each plant. 

Opacity is the degree to which transmission of light is reduced by particles in the air. 

The BPU/Unified Government dispute the allegations and said they believe that the opacity instances referred to by the Sierra Club fall within Kansas regulations that allow opacity to exceed limits during certain events, primarily startup, shutdown, or malfunction of plant operations. 

The BPU/UG noted that the Clean Air Act allows citizens and groups to enforce the requirements of the clean air law -- and permits issued under its authority -- through actions in federal court.  "The Sierra Club has sued dozens of electric utilities across the country for alleged violations of various air emission requirements, including suits including opacity claims," said BPU/UG. "In part, the lawsuits are used to further the Sierra Club 'Beyond Coal Campaign,' which seeks to replace coal with other forms of fuel for electric generation."

The consent decree generally requires that the two Quindaro generating units permanently cease burning coal by April 16, 2015, that the Nearman station add baghouse controls to meet a specific negotiated emissions limit for filterable particulate matter in air emissions by Sept. 1, 2017, and that specified energy efficiency projects be undertaken.
"We believe that the Nearman and Quindaro power plants are operated in compliance with the law," said BPU General Manager Don Gray. "Unfortunately, interpretations of the law differ in this instance. We were able to resolve differences with a settlement that is beneficial to both parties and, most importantly, that is beneficial to BPU customers."

Among other things, the consent decree specifies that the BPU cease burning coal at Quindaro Unit 1 and Quindaro Unit 2 by April 16, 2015. The utility also must install and continuously operate a baghouse at Nearman and by Sept. 1, 2017 meet a limit of 0.01 lb/mmBtu filterable particulate matter to be measured on a 30-day rolling average with continuous emissions monitors.

The BPU also is required to spend a total of $750,000 for the development and implement of the following energy efficiency projects: 
•  Energy Efficiency Community Collaborative to promote and enhance the implementation of energy efficiency practices by residential, commercial, and industrial customers of BPU electric power. Collaborative members will be selected by BPU from local organizations. The Unified Government will have a representative on the collaborative.
•  Energy efficiency projects to be funded at an average of $150,000 per year for years 2013 through 2017.  The funds will be expended on any combination of the following energy efficiency projects:
     •  Home energy audit program - certified auditors will provide energy efficiency improvement recommendations and information. The audit cost is $50 to be refunded with documentation of completion of the recommended improvements.
     •  Refrigerator replacement program – a rebate for replacement of an old refrigerator can be made upon documentation of purchase of an efficient refrigerator and documentation of proper disposal of the replaced refrigerator.
     •  Habitat for Humanity low-income housing retrofits donation; and implementation of energy efficiency improvements in low-income housing administered by Habitat for Humanity.

The agreement calls for the BPU/UG to pay the reasonable attorney fees and costs of Sierra Club in this matter. The Sierra Club agrees not to initiate any action in proceedings for permits or approvals needed to accomplish the requirements of the consent decree.

The BPU serves approximately 63,000 electric and 50,000 water customers, primarily in Wyandotte County, Kan. 


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