Clean Air Groups Applaud EPA Review of Pollution Plan for Minnesota’s Dirtiest Coal-Fired Power Plant

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   June 25, 2014
Contact:   Joel Finkelstein for NPCA | 202.285.0113 | finkelstein@climateadvisers
Alison Flowers for Sierra Club | 303-246-6297 | alison.flowers@sierraclub.org


Clean Air Groups Applaud EPA Review of Pollution Plan for Minnesota’s Dirtiest Coal-Fired Power Plant

Xcel’s Sherco Coal Plant Damages Air Quality for Midwesterners and our National Parks and Wilderness Areas

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — After years of delay, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday agreed to revisit the pollution control plan for Xcel Energy’s Sherburne County Generating Station (Sherco). Sherco is Minnesota’s dirtiest coal-fired power plant. The pollution created by the 37-year-old Sherco plant is unhealthy for people and is a major contributor to the haze that obscures views at Voyageurs and Isle Royale National Parks, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

As a result of this agreement, EPA will act on a 2009 certification by the National Park Service that Sherco is impairing national park visibility. The agency will propose a plan by February 27th, 2015 and finalize a plan by the end of August 2015. EPA's obligation is based on the Clean Air Act's requirement to protect America’s greatest national parks and wilderness areas from air pollution. 

EPA's commitment comes as the result of a lawsuit brought by a group of clean air advocates, including the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Sierra Club, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Voyageurs National Park Association and Fresh Energy.

“This is a major step toward clean air in Boundary Waters, Voyageurs and Isle Royale,” said Stephanie Kodish, Director & Counsel for the Clean Air Program at NPCA. “At last, today we can say that EPA is going to act. Now we need to make sure that EPA’s action is as strong and meaningful as the Midwest deserves.”

While EPA has agreed to take some action by the end of next February, the form of that action is uncertain. There are at least three possible scenarios:

  • EPA could require Sherco to be retrofitted with best available pollution controls.
  • EPA could determine that the National Park Service was wrong and that Sherco does not impair the air quality in Voyageurs and Isle Royale National Parks, and require no additional controls. This is similar to the argument Xcel is making, even though both Xcel’s and the state’s own air pollution modeling both show that these controls still mean dirty air and impacted visibility at Voyageurs and Isle Royale for roughly a month each year; and at Boundary Waters almost two months of every year.
  • EPA could agree to a weak haze plan put forward by Minnesota state regulators that does not require best available retrofit controls, even though technology that can remove 90 percent or more of haze-causing emissions is available and has been installed on over 200 similar coal plants nationwide.

"We hope that our families will soon be able to breathe a little easier, especially in our parks," said Jessica Tritsch, organizer for the Sierra Club in Minnesota. "The health consequences of Xcel Energy's Sherco power plant are still very present, and we need this utility to step up and clean up the dirty air it's been creating for years."

EPA's agreement to take action on the Park Service's 2009 certification is set forth in a Consent Decree that was lodged yesterday in federal district court in Minneapolis.  The Consent Decree will not become final until the completion of a public comment period and thereafter review and approval by the Court.  

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