Ya Gotta Believe
January 28th, 2009
Ya Gotta Believe!
It is midnight Friday the 23rd and have I got news for you. I wish this was a daily paper and you could read this the first thing in the morning, but since this is a weekly paper, you heard it from me first. There is a project going on in the northeastern part of the state called the Big Stone II power plant. It is a 600 megawatt power station that is to be added to the current plant owned and operated by Otter Tail Power Company. I mean this thing is huge, and a very good friend of mine named Mary Jo Steuve, with an organization called Clean Water Action has been leading the fight on this construction project for over three years much as we have been fighting the Hyperion refinery issue. The big concern is pollution. Carbon Dioxide, sulfuric acid, acid rain, water pollution you name it and Clean Water Action has been fighting it. Anyway, the State of South Dakota approved the air quality permit for them to begin construction. Does this sound familiar? DENR approved their application with hardly a word and the state thought it was all said and done. Today, the EPA overturned the State of South Dakota decision and this virtually stops Big Stone II in its tracks. . DENR and Otter Tail Power have 60-90 days to respond to the EPA actions.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has overturned the State of South Dakota's approval of the massive Big Stone II coal-fired power plant. The EPA's decision comes after the state failed to require state-of-the-art pollution controls for the coal plant that would address concerns about harmful soot, smog and global warming pollution. This decision likely spells the end of Otter Tail Power's Big Stone II coal plant. At a minimum, Otter Tail Power will have to go back to the drawing board and redesign the project to incorporate the best and maximum available control technology for pollution like soot and smog.
Read carefully again the part of the above paragraph where it says the state failed to require state-of-the-art pollution controls for the coal plant that would address harmful soot, smog and global warming pollution. This is the very point we have been arguing with the DENR about Hyperion since the beginning of the application process. The only difference is that we were asking the DENR to require Hyperion to use what is called LAER technology. (Least Available Emission Reduction) which is one step above what Hyperion was proposing. DENR in its infinite wisdom said that BACT technology would suffice. The EPA wants Big Stone to be Maximum available control technology. By requiring Otter Tail to go back and completely redesign their system virtually stops them in their tracks.
Do you think Hyperion is hearing footsteps? Obama has only been President for 3 days and look what he is doing. As the first major coal plant decision by the EPA since President Obama took office, this decision signals that the dozens of other coal plant proposals currently in permitting processes nationwide will face a new level of federal scrutiny. Sierra Club and Clean Water Action have been working to stop the Big Stone II project and ramp up clean energy investments for more than three years.
This action by the EPA is nothing short of putting the last nail in the coffin for Hyperion. I don’t see how DENR can possible approve their application after the action taken today by the EPA. If you will remember a remark by DENR when they were open for public comment, EPA sent a 23 page document to DENR and said this application was tragically flawed and needed much corrective action. DENR’s response was thank you very much but we don’t need your approval. I think they might have to retool their thinking and try again, this time within the guidelines of the EPA. That includes an Environmental Impact Study. Glory, Glory, Glory Hallelujah!
"Today EPA took the first step toward restoring science and integrity to its work and recognizing the very real need to reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants," said Darrell Gerber, Clean Water Action Program Coordinator. "Downwind residents and the region's natural resources will be better protected." This decision likely spells the end of Otter Tail Power's Big Stone II coal plant. While for the past eight years the Bush Administration has refused to regulate global warming pollution, even after being ordered to do so by the US Supreme Court, President Obama has pledged that the US will cut global warming pollution and do its part to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. With coal-fired power plants accounting for almost 30% of our nation's carbon dioxide emissions, burning less coal and investing in clean energy such as wind and solar instead is a common sense approach to helping meet global warming pollution reduction goals.
Remember folks, one part of the Hyperion refinery is to be a coal fired power plant that produces 200 megawatts of energy. Hyperion says it will use IGCC technology, but will only build it to BACT (Best Available Control Technology). That is not good enough. Maximum is the key word here. I’m here to tell you this refinery doesn’t stand a chance of happening.
"Otter Tail Power will now have to be responsible for the cost of its pollution," said Nilles. "We hope that this increasing cost of coal will encourage Otter Tail Power, along with Governors Pawlenty and Rounds, to harness the clean and affordable wind resources available in the region. Minnesota and South Dakota should be leaders on the path to renewable energy independence, not laggards proposing 19th century coal plants." Sweeter words were never spoken were they?
The news quotes come from articles printed in the Clean water Action website on January 23rd, 2009. The article was written by Darrell Gerber, Program Coordinator, Clean Water Action. I want to thank Clean Water Action and the Sierra club from the bottom of my heart and I’m sure you all feel the same way don’t you?