Sierra Club — “AEP gains court approval for modified plan to retire Indiana coal-fired units”

Rod Walton, Power Engineering, July 18, 2019

An Ohio federal court has approved American Electric Power’s agreement to accelerate its emissions reductions plan that now includes retiring its coal-fired Rockport Plant in Indiana by the end of 2028, the utility giant announced Thursday.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio approved the latest modification in a 12-year-old consent degree involving AEP, the EPA, Sierra Club and several states. Under a former federal court order dating back two years, AEP would have spent $1.4 billion on installing scrubbers at the Rockport’s Unit 2.

Instead, the Ohio-based utility will close the plant in 2028. All parties in the settlement have agreed to the modification.

“We invested nearly $9 billion in capital since 2000 to drastically cut emissions from our coal-fueled power plants,” AEP CEO Nicholas Akins said in a statement. “Today, our investments are focused on renewable generation and advanced technologies that enhance service for our customers. This shift in focus achieves ongoing emission reductions and provides the resources and services that our customers have told us they expect from their energy company.”

The original agreement settled allegations that AEP violated new source review provisions and made major modifications to its power plants without obtaining proper permits and installing best available technology to control emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). AEP denied the allegations. No final decision on liability was issued by the Court.

As a result of this modification, AEP’s Indiana Michigan Power operating unit will operate enhanced dry sorbent injection equipment on both generating units at Rockport Plant beginning in 2021 to accelerate SO2 emission reductions and achieve a plant-wide emissions rate of 10,000 tons or less a year.

This change will accelerate SO2 emission cuts from Rockport by eight years. The previous agreement would have achieved the same levels of emission cuts in 2029.

Additionally, AEP subsidiary Indiana Michigan Power will operate selective catalytic reduction to reduce NOx emissions from Rockport Unit 2 by June 1, 2020. AEP will retire Rockport Unit 1 by the end of 2028.

AEP also will cut the annual SO2 emissions from its coal-fueled plants in the Midwest to 89,000 tons per year by 2029, compared with the current cap of 113,000 tons per year.  

The utility has retired more than 8,600 MW of coal-fired generation since 2011 and will retire another 1,100 MW by the end of next year, according to the AEP release.

The Rockport plant’s two units total 2,600 MW in generation capacity. Unit 1 was put into service in 1984 while Unit 2 was added nearly five years later.

Rockport also generates close to 11,000 GWh in electricity annually, according to reports.

A Sierra Club report on Rockport several years ago called it the sixth largest carbon polluter in the nation, citing EPA statistics estimating some 5.8 million pounds of air and water pollution in 2013.

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