HomeEnvironment & Climate NewsWyoming Fights U.S. EPA Coal Power Plant Haze Rule

Wyoming Fights U.S. EPA Coal Power Plant Haze Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently rejected changes to a State Implementation Plan (SIP) on haze rules for a Wyoming power plant that were previously approved under the Trump administration.

The decision to mandate stricter haze regulations on the Sweetwater County, Jim Bridger coal power plant may result in the premature shutdown of two of four coal burning units.

The Jim Bridger plant is one of the largest coal plants in the United States, delivering 2,441 Megawatts (Mw) electricity from four coal fueled units. It employs more than 300 people, and supplies energy to multiple western states.

During the presidency of Donald Trump, the EPA accepted Wyoming’s revised SIP plan, which concluded the reductions of of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions and other regulated pollutants due to previously installed pollution controls sufficiently protected public health and did not need to be made more stringent.

Now, with Biden in control, the EPA has shifted its opinion. The agency now claims units 1 and 2 need additional emissions control technology installed in order comply with the emission limits imposed under the 1970 Clean Air Act.

“Costs Are Simply Too Great”

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed a Temporary Emergency Suspension Order of the part of Wyoming’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) dealing with NOx to keep unit 2 running for a few months longer than the January shutdown date mandated by Biden in order to prevent economic fallout from the EPA’s changed opinion.

In a letter to Michael Regan, the EPA administrator, Gordon says it would be irresponsible for him to allow the unit to shut down due to the high cost for Wyoming.

“As is readily apparent, this emergency suspension meets all the requirements of Section 7410(g) and it would be irresponsible either for me not to issue it or for you to attempt to disapprove it,” wrote Gordon. “The costs are simply too great socially, economically, and environmentally to allow Unit 2 to shut down on January 1st.”

Lummis Holds Biden Nominees

In response to the EPA’s about face on Wyoming’s previously approved SIP, Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) placed holds on the Biden administration’s remaining unconfirmed EPA nominees.

The EPA is going back on what they previously agreed to not because the science has changed, but for political reasons, said Lummis in a press release announcing the decision to place a hold on Biden’s remaining EPA nominees.

“The EPA’s decision today is a complete reversal from that of career EPA employees during the previous administration,” Lummis said. “The Biden EPA’s decision here is needlessly hurting Wyoming’s energy workers and threatening America’s energy independence as well.

“It is blatantly political, and I will continue to block President Biden’s EPA nominees over this issue,” Lummis said.

“Disregard For Rural States”

The Biden administration has complete disregard for energy security and the lives and livelihoods of people living in rural communities, says Wyoming state Rep. Ocean Andrew (R-Laramie).

“The actions the federal government is taking to harm the fossil fuel industry shows the current administration’s disregard for rural states and our way of life,” said Andrew. “Wyoming has been powering the country for decades with our abundant resources.

“It’s reckless to kick so many hard-working individuals to the curb for nothing but overly politicized energy policy,” Andrew said.

Andrew says the fossil fuel industry powers much of Wyoming’s economy, and the Biden administration’s attempt to force an energy transition away from fossil fuels will do more harm than good.

“Directly or indirectly, fossil fuels pay Wyomingites’ paychecks, fund our schools, and support our small business.” Andrew said, “We could accept and adapt to a slow transition to alternative energy sources if market forces were driving it, but swiftly taking our livelihoods by federal action is cruel and destructive.”

The Jim Bridger power plant originally planned to convert two units to natural gas, which the EPA did not disapprove. However, the plant may be forced to those units shut down entirely before the transition can take place to meet EPA’s haze requirements.

Linnea Lueken (llueken@heartland.orgis a research fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute.

Legislative Contacts:

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon: https://governor.wyo.gov/; https://governor.wyo.gov/contact

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY): https://www.lummis.senate.gov/; https://www.lummis.senate.gov/contact/contact-form/

Wyoming state Rep. Ocean Andrew (R-Laramie): https://www.oceanandrew.com/; Ocean.Andrew@wyoleg.gov

Linnea Lueken
Linnea Luekenhttps://www.heartland.org/about-us/who-we-are/linnea-lueken
Linnea Lueken is a Research Fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy. While she was an intern with The Heartland Institute in 2018, she co-authored a policy brief 'Debunking Four Persistent Myths About Hydraulic Fracturing'.

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