DNREC issues permits on NRG’s emission plans

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Collin O’Mara has issued a Secretary’s Order approving construction permits for air pollution control equipment at NRG’s Indian River power plant near Millsboro that officials said will transform the facility from among the 50 dirtiest coal plants in the nation to the one of the cleanest while also providing substantial public health and environmental benefits to Delawareans.

The project aligns with Delaware’s environmental, public health and energy goals of reducing air emissions and providing clean, reliable power from existing sources as the state transitions toward renewable energy from offshore wind, solar and geothermal technologies, officials said.

The approved plan requires that the power plant’s oldest units, Unit 1 and Unit 2, be shut down by May 1, 2011, and May 1, 2010, respectively, and calls for construction of back-end pollution control equipment on Unit 3 and Unit 4 by Dec. 31, 2011, as allowed under the permits.

Pollution control equipment to be constructed includes an ammonia storage system, lime silos and baghouses, a byproduct storage silo with a baghouse, selective catalytic reduction systems and circulating dry scrubber systems with a baghouse.

These investments were selected by NRG to meet emission reductions necessary to comply with the Department’s multi-pollutant regulation (No. 1146) governing control of air pollution from generating units. Additionally and in concert with this permitting action, NRG has agreed to install and operate two air monitoring stations to measure ambient levels of fine particles upwind and downwind of the facility.

The shutdown of Units 1 and 2 is estimated to result in prevention of 4,586 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 23,925 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) from being emitted into the air annually.

Construction of the pollution control equipment on Units 3 and 4 is expected to further decrease annual emissions of NOx by more than 75 percent (from 12,452 tons to 3,064 tons), SO2 by nearly 85 percent (from 41,720 tons to 6,128 tons), mercury by nearly 90 percent to no more than 25 pounds per year, acid gas emissions by more than 80 percent, particulate matter by more than 50 percent (from 4,730 tons to 2,298 tons); and ammonia by more than 30 percent (from 372 to 250 tons).

The combined impact of these changes is expected to be an overall reduction in NOx and SO2 emissions at the facility of nearly 90 percent by the project’s completion, advancing both air quality and water quality goals for the state. These reductions in emissions are estimated to generate approximately $2 billion in avoided health care costs.

Further, the shutdown of Units 1 and 2 will also reduce water intake at the facility by approximately 60 percent and make a measurable improvement in the water quality, improve aquatic habitat and help rebuild fish populations.

“These improvements will mark a substantial improvement in air quality,” said Gov. Jack Markell. “The health of our environment is linked the health of our residents and the strength of our economy, and the half-billion dollars of investment will create up to 500 construction jobs in Sussex County during this difficult economic period.”

“This project represents the largest single reduction in air emissions ever in Delaware and can serve as a model for generating cleaner energy across the nation,” said O’Mara. “By working diligently and specifically to reduce harmful air emissions through our multi-pollutant regulatory process we will continue to improve air quality, water quality, and public health outcomes in Delaware.”

The $500 million in improvements will generate up to 500 new construction jobs between 2009 and 2012, including iron workers, steel workers, laborers, electricians, pipefitters, operators, carpenters, mechanics, engineers, financial experts and support staff, while retaining the existing jobs at the facility.

Indian River Power LLC, a subsidiary of NRG Energy Inc., submitted an application for permits to construct the pollution control equipment at the Indian River Generating Station near Millsboro on April 16, 2009, to comply with a negotiated settlement with the Air Quality Management Section under former Secretary John Hughes, which was approved by Superior Court Sept. 24, 2007.

The department held a public hearing on the application on Aug. 12, 2009, and the public comments were reviewed in a Hearing Officer’s Report dated Sept. 30, 2009. There were no comments made in objection to the permits at the hearing.

The Secretary’s Order, Hearing Officer’s Report and Technical Response Memorandum providing Air Quality Management Section’s responses to the comments made at the Aug. 12 hearing are available for review on the department’s Web site at: http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/Info/Pages/SecOrders.aspx.