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Environmental Management

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

City Utilities is still concerned with air quality, burning more low-sulfur coal in its coal-fired power plants than ever before, said Dr. David Fraley, director of environmental compliance for the utility.

City Utilities is now burning about 75 percent low-sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin in its James River Power Plant. That percentage is up from 50 percent several months ago, Fraley said.

In October 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new rule that would cause coal-fired plants to reduce their NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions further. The proposal concerns reducing NOx emissions in Missouri, because the EPA has said that the state is potentially one that contributes to Chicago's air quality. Chicago's air quality in turn affects air in the northeast, Fraley said.

The deadline for comment on that proposal was March 9, said Roger Randolph, staff director of the air pollution control program for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

The department submitted a comment to EPA, the premise of which was that the western portion of the state be excluded from the agency's rule. Missouri is farther west than any of the other states EPA has proposed to include. The eastern one-third of the state is responsible for about 60 percent of the emissions in the state, Randolph said.

"What has been our mantra from the beginning is that the western two-thirds of the state should not be included in the proposal," Randolph said.

At this point, the department has no feedback from EPA. The agency is set to promulgate a rule on the proposal in September.

It is also not known for sure how long affected businesses would have to

comply with the new rule, but Jeff

Bennett, an environmental engineer with the Department of Natural Resources, said it could be between three and five years.

The EPA is essentially asking for a 65 percent to 70 percent reduction in the amount of nitrogen oxide produced, Randolph said.

The utility will face other air issues during the coming months, also, Fraley said. City Utilities and other power producers will have to begin reporting to the EPA regarding production of mercury, Fraley said.

Previously, only manufacturing plants had to report what heavy metals they were releasing during the manufacturing process. In CU's case, the ash it produces during power production will have to be analyzed for its chemical content, Fraley said.

Mercury is being singled out as a metal of which the EPA wants to limit production.

"What it typically comes back to is the amount of mercury that eventually lands in the water. The amount of dietary mercury is the biggest concern there," Fraley said.

Randolph said there will be some action taken on the amount of mercury being produced by power plants that burn low-sulfur Wisconsin coal, but it is not known what that will be.

Power companies and other industries will also be working to reduce regional haze in coming years, Fraley said.

"There is a national goal to reduce haze so that when you look out over an area, it's as clear as it was when the early settlers looked at it. We're going to be looking closely at what can be done to improve visibility," Fraley said.

INSET CAPTION:

The Missouri DNR is requesting that the western portion of the state be excluded from the EPA's rule. [[In-content Ad]]

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