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story.lead_photo.caption Westside Eagle Observer/RANDY MOLL Flint Creek Power Plant is a landmark in the Gentry area. It is here pictured on a cold January day.

ARKANSAS -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Arkansas' plan to implement part of a federal rule designed to enhance visibility in national wilderness areas, the agency announced last week, but it won't change utilities' plans for complying with the rule.

The agency approved the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's plan to reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions in the state, which is among the less contentious portions of the Regional Haze Rule.

The most contentious portion of the plan -- estimated by utilities to cost them more than $2 billion and estimated by the EPA to cost less than $500 million -- calls for the reduction of sulfur-dioxide emissions, for which the department has not finalized its changes. The public comment period on that part of the plan concluded Friday. The rule largely targets coal-fired power plants and other electricity-generating units.

The EPA already finalized a plan for implementing the Regional Haze Rule in Arkansas without the state's input after a federal judge's order that the EPA must create one because the state did not do so in a timely manner. That plan remains in effect, but the nitrogen-oxide and sulfur-dioxide emissions portions of it are under a court-ordered stay.

The federal plan uses the EPA's Best Available Retrofit Technology analyses to determine caps for each plant. The state's method would drop those analyses in favor of the EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which calls for lower future caps on emissions. The state is already subject to that rule during summer months.

In its decision posted in the Federal Register, the EPA agreed with the department's argument that it could accomplish its requirements for haze by using the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. But it noted that the rule can only be used in Arkansas' plan if the EPA finalizes its findings that the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is a better tool than Best Available Retrofit Technology.

Utilities have already moved to comply with the nitrogen oxide portion of the Regional Haze Rule. Required to install low-nitrogen oxide burners on its coal plants by mid-2018 under the federal plan, Entergy Arkansas has already purchased the $18 million equipment for its White Bluff coal plant near Redfield and its Independence coal plant near Newark.

Entergy Arkansas spokesman Kerri Case said the utility still plans to install the burners.

The utility also said it was looking forward to "a continued productive relationship" with the EPA on other aspects of the haze plan.

Southwestern Electric Power Company and the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives long ago purchased the equipment for the Flint Creek coal plant near Gentry. The utilities estimate completing their installation in May.

Uncertainty about litigation over Regional Haze and other air regulations pushed the utilities to install anyway, said Carey Sullivan, a spokesman for Southwestern Electric Power Company.

General News on 02/07/2018

Print Headline: EPA supports state revisions on haze rule; utilities still plan to reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions

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