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Coal-Fired Plants in Trouble with Federal, State Governments

While DTE Energy is being sued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over expansion plans at its coal-fired electric plant in Michigan, Edison International has agreed to cut sulfur-dioxide emissions at its Illinois power plants under an agreement with the state. The lawsuit could cost DTE up to $37,500 per day in civil penalties, while Edison could outlay as much as $1.2 billion for upgrades to cut emissions.

The EPA has sued DTE Energy to stop its expansion at a coal-fired electric plant that the agency says will worsen air pollution in Michigan, reports The Detroit News. The lawsuit alleges DTE made major modifications in March at its Monroe Power Plant without getting the necessary approvals.

EPA claims the $30-million upgrade was made without the installation of best available technology to minimize sulfur-dioxide and nitrogen-oxide emissions as required under the Clean Air Act, and is asking a federal judge to shut down the unit and stop further modifications until DTE complies with the federal regulation, reports The Detroit News.

DTE spokesman John Austerberry said in the article that the Monroe plant is “among the cleanest and most efficient coal plants in the country.” He also said that shutting down the unit would cost customers up to $250,000 a day because DTE would have to purchase power elsewhere.

Edison’s Midwest Generation unit, which operates six coal-fired power plants in Illinois, is required to cut mercury, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate, or soot, emissions at the plants, under an agreement with the state, which could cost up to $1.2 billion, reports The Wall Street Journal.

So far, Edison has installed equipment to cut mercury emissions at the plants and received state approval to install equipment to cut nitrogen oxide emissions, according to the article. The power company still needs to make a final decision on a project to cut sulfur-dioxide emissions.

Credit Suisse analysts told The Wall Street Journal the $1.2 billion estimated cost for the project is more acceptable than spending about $2.5 billion on alternative technologies.

Meanwhile, an Illinois project to lower carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants is receiving $1 billion in stimulus funds from the U.S. Department of Energy, reports Bloomberg. Project partners include Ameren, Babcock & Wilcox and other energy companies.

The FutureGen 2.0 project will retrofit a 200-megawatt unit at Ameren’s plant in Meredosia, Illinois, with “advanced oxy-combustion” technology, a new boiler, and an air-separation unit to capture 90 percent of the plant’s CO2 emissions, according to the article. It is also expected to cut most of the sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions.

The FutureGen project was created to prove the technical and economic feasibility of producing low-cost power and hydrogen from coal while nearly eliminating emissions.

This project replaces a tabled Bush administration plan to build a clean-coal plant from the ground up in Mattoon, Illinois.

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