Duke Energy Threatens Coal Plant Closure In Light of EPA MACT Rule

by | Jul 21, 2011

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Duke Energy Ohio is threatening to decommission all six coal-fired generation units at a plant near Cincinnati, by Jan. 1, 2015, unless changes are made to a proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation.

The energy company announced its intent to retire the six units at its W.C. Beckjord Station, – totaling 862 megawatts of generating capacity – in its 2011 Resource Plan filing with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on July 15.

Duke plans to retire the coal-fired units at the nearly 60-year-old plant (pictured) in 2015 due to the EPA’s recently proposed Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule, which, among other things, requires new emission control technology to be installed at power plants.

The EPA intends to finalize the rule in Nov. 2011, with required emission control technologies to be installed by Jan. 1, 2015 – the date that Duke is anticipating closing its coal-fired units.

“The Beckjord Station decision is largely based on the age of the coal-fired units and the prohibitive cost – to which our customers would be exposed – of implementing the new MACT technology requirements,” Duke said in a statement. “The anticipated retirement date is contingent on potential changes to the implementation [of the] EPA’s MACT rule and other environmental regulations.”

Barring a change to plant economics – including variables like fuel costs, power prices, and capital and maintenance expenses – Duke Energy says it intends to continue operating the coal-fired units until the anticipated 2015 retirement date.

The company plans to meet demand following the retirement of Beckjord’s coal-fired units through the purchase of electricity on the competitive wholesale market or the construction or acquisition of natural gas-fired combined-cycle generating assets.

As well as the six coal powered units, the Beckjord Station is home to four oil-fired combustion turbines. Duke has no plans to retire the combustion turbines.

The plant employs about 120 staff. Duke says that people are likely to lose their jobs following the closure, but that some employees might be offered the opportunity to work at other Duke Energy plants.

In February, following industry pressure, the EPA released a revised planned MACT rule that it said brought down implementation costs on the energy sector by half. At the time the EPA also said it will “reconsider” certain aspects of the boiler and incinerator rules, and seek further public comment on those portions.

In June, four Republicans and four Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee revealed legislation aimed at further delaying the MACT rules.

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