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Entergy urged to phase out coal plants

Sierra Club proposes closing units near Redfield 3 years ahead of schedule by Emily Walkenhorst | February 29, 2016 at 3:34 a.m.

The Sierra Club in Arkansas announced last week a proposal for the state's energy future that asks that Entergy Arkansas close its two largest coal plants within the next 11 years.

Entergy Arkansas has proposed closing one of the plants -- the 1,700-megawatt White Bluff plant near Redfield -- in two phases in 2027 and 2028, but it has announced no plans for the 1,700-megawatt Independence plant near Newark. Neither coal plant has environmental scrubbers that reduce emissions.

The Sierra Club, one of the nation's largest environmental organizations, has been meeting on occasion with Entergy Arkansas officials. It wants the White Bluff plant to close by 2025 and the Independence plant to close by 2027 in response to the federal Regional Haze Rule, which was adopted into the Clean Air Act by Congress in 1999.

Sally Graham, a spokesman for Entergy Arkansas, said the utility was studying the Sierra Club's proposal but also said that the utility's existing proposal for complying with the Regional Haze Rule was "very reasonable."

"Entergy Arkansas and plant co-owners proposed last summer a compromise plan to end all coal-fired operations at White Bluff's two units in 2027 and 2028, when the plant will be nearly 50 years old and, therefore, avoid spending $1 billion on scrubbers there," Graham said in a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The utility disputes the EPA's inclusion of the Independence plant in the original plan, arguing that the year it was built disqualifies it from the early Regional Haze Rule compliance period.

Sierra Club Arkansas Chapter President Glen Hooks and other Sierra Club representatives said last week that renewable energy prices were dropping, that their construction was growing and that they were a better way moving forward for the state.

"We're seeing it across the county," Hook said. "We's seeing it across Arkansas."

The Sierra Club also proposes that the plants' capacity be replaced by renewable energies like wind, solar and geothermal energy.

Entergy Arkansas has already invested in some solar energy in Arkansas, and officials with the utility have said they intend to replace the White Bluff plant with power from wind, solar or natural gas, or a combination of the three.

The Sierra Club sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2014 for not issuing a federal implementation for the Regional Haze Rule within two years after partially rejecting the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's proposal. A new plan by the EPA for implementing the law will be drafted by Aug. 31, according to a federal judge's order. The EPA has said it will consult with the Arkansas department in drafting it.

The rule is intended to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions that contribute to visibility impairment at 156 national parks and certain wilderness areas. Because of emissions produced by power plants in Arkansas, the state must address the Upper Buffalo and Caney Creek wilderness areas, in addition to the Hercules-Glades Wilderness Area and Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri.

By law, the rule targets only visibility, but proponents of the rule argue that reducing sulfur dioxide emissions will also reduce the number of respiratory illnesses and deaths in Arkansas and across the country.

Metro on 02/29/2016

Print Headline: Entergy urged to phase out coal plants


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