A troubled coal burning power plant in western New York could get a new life as a natural gas burning power plant. The facility in Dunkirk should be refitted to burn natural gas according to a study commissioned by the plant’s owners, NRG.
According to NRG the conversion, which would cost about a half billion dollars would result in a 5% reduction in western New York electricity rates. Across the entire state ratepayers could see a 2% reduction in electricity costs as a result of the plant being repurposed.
According to the report, the switch would reduce the state’s dependence on higher cost electricity and eliminate the need for a proposed $2.2 billion project to import power from Quebec to New York City.
The New York power market is beginning to experience a taste of what Texas has been dealing with for a while. An oversupply of natural gas has brought about cheap electricity rates making it more difficult for energy producers to make money; especially with coal burning power plants. The power plant in Dunkirk faces shutdown in 2015 if NRG doesn’t take drastic steps such as the conversion to natural gas.
Once practically the only game in town for electricity, coal is rapidly loosing its position to natural gas. The EPA has aggressively gone after coal in recent years with new rules that have added substantially to the cost of coal energy. The combination of free market dynamics and regulatory overhead for coal has shifted the economic equation in favor of natural gas.
The study suggests that New York rate payer will save an estimated $142 million per year as a result of the lower wholesale electricity prices. If the decision is made to pursue the conversation, it could also mean a jobs boost to the region. According to the company, such a project would result in about 1,200 new jobs.
Texas currently ranks the 10th worst state in the nation when it comes to exposing residents to toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to the latest analysis released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The NRDC data show:
* Texas’ electricity sector ranks 10th in the nation for industrial toxic air pollution for the year 2010, emitting nearly 10.5 million pounds of harmful chemicals, which accounted for 25% of state pollution and about 3% of toxic pollution from all U.S. power plants.
* Texas ranks 1st (worst) among all states for industrial mercury air pollution from power plants, with 12,740 pounds emitted in 2010, which accounted for 78% of the state mercury air pollution and 19% of U.S. electricity sector mercury pollution.
The states on the “Toxic 20” list are from worst to best:
5. West Virginia
8. North Carolina
13. South Carolina
TXU’s parent company, Energy Future Holdings, has yet another legal issue to contend with. EFH is once again being sued over it’s highly pollutive Luminant plant in Longview, Texas. The coal-fired plant, known as Big Brown, is one of the dirtiest in the nation, and the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and the Sierra Club are filing suit against it.
Luminant, TXU and Oncor were purchased together by EFH in 2006, and have lost massive amounts of money every quarter since then. Luminant has three coal plants in North Texas that rank among the nation’s top ten worst polluting industrial facilities. Those three plants (Big Brown, Martin Lake and Monticello) alone make up 25% of all the industrial pollution in Texas, and they account for 46% of all pollution related to electricity generation in the state. That is staggering considering there are over 125 power plants of their size in Texas.
Dr. Neil Caiman, Air Program Director of the Lonestar Chapter of the Sierra Club, had this to say about the lawsuit:
Luminant self-monitors its plants, and according to the company’s own data, the Big Brown plant has violated the requirements of its own air permit thousands of times. What’s troubling is that Luminant’s Big Brown plant has very lenient pollution standards compared to other power plants, and the plant is still pumping out more than three times the legal limit. That impacts the health and wellbeing of Texans. For far too long Luminant has failed to clean up its harmful pollution and chosen not to install pollution controls, even as many other power plant operators were cleaning up their plants. Those days are over and in order to bring Big Brown into compliance, Luminant must decide if it will clean up the power plant or retire it.