The regional haze debate has become clear

EPA approves state plan for Young Station

The United States EPA has approved North Dakota’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) regarding nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions for Units 1 and 2 at Minnkota’s Milton R. Young Station (MRYS).

This final action regarding regional haze was released by the EPA on March 2.

It means that the EPA has approved that portion of the state of North Dakota’s SIP that allows Over-Fired Air (OFA)+Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction (SNCR) technology to be used for NOx reduction at the Young Station in complying with the Regional Haze Rule.

The EPA also approved the SIP for Basin Electric Cooperative’s Leland Olds Station (LOS) Unit 2. However, the EPA’s action does require two plants to make changes. A partial FIP means Basin’s Antelope Valley Station (AVS) must install low-NOx burners and Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station must install SNCR. Both of those use pulverized coal-fired boilers. The Young Station and Leland Olds Unit 2 have cyclone-fired boilers.

In July 2011, the EPA issued a proposed FIP that would have required the MRYS and LOS Unit 2 to install Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology. SCRs are much more expensive than OFA+SNCR technology and have not proven to work on cyclone-fired boilers using North Dakota lignite coal.

“We are pleased the EPA recognized the state of North Dakota properly identified the right technology for our Young Station,” said Mac McLennan, Minnkota president & CEO. “A number of people have worked hard on this issue for many years. This is a victory for the coexistence of clean, clear air and affordable energy.”

The EPA and other agencies have been monitoring visibility in national parks and wilderness areas since 1988. In 1999, the EPA announced a major effort to improve air quality in national parks and wilderness areas. The Regional Haze Rule calls for state and federal agencies to work together to improve visibility in 156 national parks and wilderness areas, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

A December 2011 ruling weighed heavily in the EPA’s decision to approve the SIP for the Young Station and Leland Olds Unit 2.

In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel L. Hovland ruled in favor of the state of North Dakota in a dispute resolution process under the Consent Decree for what is Best Available Control Technology (BACT) for NOx at the Young Station.

The Judge denied both the EPA’s motion to Stay the process until regional haze is settled and the motion for dispute resolution that would have required the state of North Dakota to redo the BACT determination.

Hovland ruled that the state’s finding that BACT for NOx at the Young Station was SNCR – and not SCR – was not unreasonable nor was it arbitrary and capricious.

“In light of the court’s decision and the views we have expressed in our BART (Best Available Retrofit Technology) guidelines on the relationship of BACT to BART, we have concluded that it would be inappropriate to proceed with our proposed disapproval of SNCR as BART and our proposed FIP to impose SCR at MRYS 1 and 2 and LOS 2,” the EPA said. “While LOS was not the subject of the BACT determination, the same reasoning that applies to MRYS 1 and 2 also applies to LOS 2. It is the same type of boiler burning North Dakota lignite coal, and North Dakota’s views regarding technical infeasibility that the U.S. District Court upheld in the MRYS BACT case apply to it as well.”

Sens. John Hoeven and Kent Conrad, Rep. Rick Berg and Gov. Jack Dalrymple were pleased with the EPA’s decision regarding the clean air plan.

Rather than a more costly federal plan ($500 million for Minnkota alone), the agreement will provide North Dakota with flexibility to implement sensible and cost-effective standards for improving visibility in selected areas of the state.

The announcement followed meetings held between the delegation and EPA officials, including a meeting with Administrator Lisa Jackson last December.
The delegation has remained committed to affirming the state of North Dakota’s ability to manage its own implementation plan, citing the state’s longstanding commitment to meeting all Clean Air Act National Ambient Air Quality Standards, and significant progress the state has already made in reducing haze in the region. 

Hoeven says the decision is a win for the state and local control.

“Our state has long demonstrated that we can promote strong economic growth and job creation, while doing a good job of protecting our air, land and water,” he said.

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