Under a settlement agreement filed in federal court today, Entergy Arkansas has agreed to quit burning coal at its White Bluff plant by the end of 2028, its Independence plant by the end of 2030 and to shutter its remaining operating plant at Lake Catherine by the end of 2027.

The Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association filed both the suit and the settlement of the suit today. The plaintiffs notified Entergy in writing in January and February of their intent to sue Entergy for violation of the Clean Air Act.

In a telephone press conference today, Glen Hooks, the director of the Arkansas chapter of the Sierra Club, noted that the White Bluff plant is ranked sixth in the nation and the Independence plant 13th for their release of air pollutants sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. They are the largest remaining coal-burning plants in the nation without scrubbers, a technology that had it been used when the plants were built would have reduced their sulfur dioxide emissions by 90 percent, Hooks said. Without the scrubbers, the plants account for 75 percent of all sulfur dioxide and a third of nitrogen oxide emitted from all sources in Arkansas, Tony Mendoza, counsel for the Sierra Club, said.

The suit against Entergy Arkansas, Entergy Power LLC and Entergy Mississippi said the utility failed to get the appropriate clean air permits and make install technology to lower emissions when it made major upgrades to its coal-burning plants in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The plants had been grandfathered in under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when the Clean Air law was originally enacted, but the law required them to bring the plants into modern compliance should they utility make major changes to the plants. 

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As a result, the plants’ combined emissions of 42,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 20,000 tons of nitrogen oxides were causing air pollution as far away as St. Louis and Memphis.

The suit said the violations would “remain ongoing” unless Entergy was “restrained and penalized by an order of this Court.”

Under the settlement, Entergy will also limit its emissions of sulfur dioxide to 0.6 pounds per million British thermal units over a 30-day operating average by no later than June 30, 2021, at the Independence and White Bluff plants. Entergy also commits to develop renewable energy capacity of 800 megawatts, 400 mw by Dec. 31, 2022, and the remainder by Dec. 31, 2027. That would include wind, solar, geothermal or hydroelectric technologies.

Hooks said the dates provided under the settlement allowed for a “transition that makes sense for communities, take care of the workforce and to be realistic” about the work required of Entergy. He said that while Entergy and other utilities still burning coal “understand the writing is on the wall” for such plants, the settlement “locks in the retirement of these plants in a federally enforceable document.”

In a press release, Entergy Arkansas said the White Bluff, Independence and the remaining operating unit at Lake Catherine “will be replaced with newer, highly efficient technologies as part of an ongoing strategy to transform the company’s power generation portfolio to better meet customers’ needs today and in the future.”

The Sierra Club press release is here.

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