Big news as Arkansas Republicans officials gear up to fight President Obama’s proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by putting stiffer limits on pollution by coal-burnign power plants.
Entergy Arkansas has filed a response to a federal Environmental Protection Agency plan to reduce haze in Arkansas. Rather than install expensive scrubbers to reduce air pollution at four units of two power plants, it proposes instead to shut down the two-unit White Bluff power plant — the state’s biggest and dirtiest coal-burning power plant — by 2028.
“This is huge,” said the Sierra Club’s Glen Hooks. “They want to shut it down rather than put scrubbers on it. The Sierra Club has been working on this for years and we’re excited.”
How big a step is it? Entergy, the state’s biggest utility is talking of shutting down its biggest coal-burning plant at a time when several alternative energy projects are underway or under consideration — including a 12-megawatt solar facility in Stuttgart. It has also recently purchased a major gas-fired generating plant in El Dorado.
In its filing, Entergy said scrubbers would be too expensive and not cost-effective at White Bluff. It also objects to scrubbers at the newer Independence station, but wants to continue to operate it.
It says, in part that the company will make interim emission reductions at both White Bluff and Independence. but, on a broader basis, it would follow an analysis submitted to the EPA in 2013 “which assumed White Bluff Units 1 and 2 would continue to combust coal for the foreseeable future. As part of a multi-unit plan to improve visibility and to better manage its generation assets for reliability and costs, Entergy proposes to cease burning coal at White Bluff Units 1 and 2 by 2027 and 2028, one unit per year, and is prepared to take an enforceable commitment to that effect.
It’s worth noting that — despite what politicians might be saying — the coal industry was already in trouble before President Obama released his tougher clean air proposal early this week. The industry has been in decline because of a switch to renewable energy and because of the natural gas glut. These are precisely the sorts of things that people have mentioned when saying Republican politicians and the coal industry and its advocates are overestimating the cost of Obama’s rules. New means will be developed. New efficiencies. New industries, even. The unthinkable, shutting down a coal plant, could be part of the solution.
The Sierra Club, by the way, thinks the EPA need
s to go farther in its rules to combat haze in Arkansas, including in important wilderness areas.
PS — Ernie Dumas more or less forecast a greener approach by Entergy in his column this week about the futility of legal fights against the EPA rule and how utilities like Entergy likely would respond.