Duke Energy settles case on Edwardsport coal-fired air permit

Duke Energy Edwardsport coal gasification power plant Indiana EPA MATS Mercury and Air Toxics Standard Wabash River Station environmental groups

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) has reached a settlement with environmental groups that ends litigation over the Edwardsport coal gasification power plant’s air permits. The settlement leaves the air permits for the Indiana plant unchanged, but Duke has agreed to several other requirements.

The company had previously announced plans to retire four 1950s-vintage units at its Wabash River Station in West Terre Haute, Ind. by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 deadline for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. Under the settlement, Duke agreed to complete the retirements by the compliance deadline or, if the rule is vacated or delayed, by June 1, 2018.

Duke has also agreed to stop burning coal at another unit at the Wabash River Station by June 1, 2018. Duke has been exploring converting that unit to burn on natural gas, and the deadline will not prevent that conversion from happening earlier.

The settlement also includes a requirement that Duke pursue additional green energy sources by either implementing a 30 MW feed-in tariff for solar photovoltaic energy or constructing or contracting for 15 MW of wind and/or solar power generation.

Duke stated in a release that if it constructs or contracts for the additional renewable energy generation, it would also retire its Miami Wabash and Connersville units, two 40- to 45-year old oil-fired peaking stations, by June 1, 2018. The two stations, totaling 166 MW, are used occasionally during times of high demand.

The option to construct or contract new renewable sources would also affect the retirement dates of the four Wabash River units, requiring them to be retired by the mercury rule compliance deadline or June 1, 2017, whichever occurs first.

The lawsuit against Duke was filed by the Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, Save the Valley and Valley Watch.

Duke Energy Indiana President Doug Esamann stated in a release the Edwardsport modernizes the company’s fleet and allows it to retire older, coal-fired generation. He added the company has already retired the former units at Edwardsport, which were built in the 1940s and 1950s, and two older units at its southern Indiana Gallagher plant. Those retirements occurred in 2011 and 2012.

The Edwardsport coal gasification plant uses technology to gasify coal, remove pollutants and burn the gas to produce electricity, which reduces the environmental impact of burning coal to produce electric power.

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