Environmental groups ask Wyoming to revoke Two Elk coal-fired power plant permit

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By Dustin Bleizeffer WyoFile.com

Two environmental groups are asking Wyoming regulators to revoke a key permit for Two Elk Power Co.’s proposed “waste coal” power plant in northeast Wyoming — a project that has been in the works for about 15 years with no construction on the actual power plant.

Sheridan, Wyo.-based landowner advocacy group Powder River Basin Resource Council (PRBRC) and the Sierra Club are urging Wyoming’s Industrial Siting Council to revoke Two Elk’s socioeconomic impact permit at the council’s April 1 hearing in Casper.

Dustin Bleizeffer

Dustin Bleizeffer

PRBRC’s Shannon Anderson said Two Elk’s socioeconomic impact permit with the ISC should be considered invalid for two main reasons. First, Two Elk has never commenced construction in earnest or secured financing required for the power plant, which comes at a capital cost of $1 billion or more. Second, the environmental groups believe the validity of Two Elk’s air quality permit with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is in question because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has yet to determine how the coal-fired power plant will be classified under EPA’s pending greenhouse gas (GHG) new source performance standard (NSPS) rule for major facilities. Two Elk has asked EPA to grant the the coal-based plant the classification of a “transitional” facility, which allows some leniency under the new source rule.

The full brunt of the GHG new source rule — a rule yet to be finalized — would likely prohibit construction of the plant as currently designed and permitted.

“Sierra Club took the lead on urging EPA to not consider Two Elk ‘transitional’ because the plant is not undergoing construction, so it shouldn’t be grandfathered in, in our opinion,” PRBRC’s Anderson told WyoFile this week.

“So, the permit modification issue (before the Industrial Siting Council in April) is really a red herring,” Anderson continued. “The bigger issue is whether they will ever have the financing and wherewithal to construct their plant.”

Two Elk Power Co. is a subsidiary of Greenwood Village, Colo.-based North American Power Group Ltd. Earlier this month, NAPG vice president Brad Enzi told the Casper Star-Tribune, “We’ve been kind of doing things a little bit at a time for last five or six years. … We’re putting in different pieces as we can.”

Reached by phone today, Enzi told WyoFile, “We pushed the (construction) schedule to January 2014 to allow a little bit more time to wrap up some of the financing and permit type issues. … So we’re working with the boiler manufacturer right now.”

Wyoming DEQ spokesman Keith Guille told WyoFile this week that Two Elk, which first proposed  the power plant in the mid-1990s, has been granted six different extensions for its air quality permit, related to delays in construction. He said that as a condition of Two Elk’s current air quality permit, the company was asked to respond to the agency with an updated best available control technology plan. So far, Two Elk’s response is incomplete, Guille said.

“This is rare, you know, we’ve never had one of these issues before,” Guille said. “This is a different situation for DEQ.”

— Dustin Bleizeffer is WyoFile editor-in-chief. You can reach him at (307) 577-6069 or email dustin@wyofile.com. Follow Dustin on Twitter at @DBleizeffer

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