Xcel will not have to pay over $11MM in potential penalties for coal-fired plant addition

By Dorothy Davis

Senior US District Judge Walker Miller has ruled Xcel Energy Inc. (NYSE:XL) will not have to pay over $11 million in potential penalties for building its additional coal-fired unit at the company’s Comanche power plant in Colorado.

In 2009 environmental group WildEarth Guardians filed suit against Xcel alleging the Minneapolis-based utility violated the federal Clean Air Act by constructing its nearly $1.3 billion Unit 3 addition before obtaining a MACT (maximum achievable control technology) determination permit.

The suit opened the door for civil penalties against Xcel that could have been assessed at a maximum rate of $37,500 per violation per day.

Xcel completed construction of the Comanche 3 coal-fired unit in 2009, but contended it did not obtain the required MACT permit until February 2010 because of ongoing changes in permitting requirements.

In his ruling Judge Miller agreed Xcel was not responsible to pay any penalties for building the unit before obtaining permitting, outlining the requirements had changed too many times for the utility to reasonably comply from the time the application process began in 2004.

The Comanche power plant is a three unit coal-fired, steam-electric generating station located in Pueblo, Colorado. With a total generating capacity of 1,466-megawatts Comanche is the largest operating power plant in Colorado.

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