by Pam Zubeck
After Colorado Springs Utilities' board of directors sent Sierra Club packing last month by voting down a lawsuit tolling agreement, the environmental group is baaaaack.
Now, the group says it commissioned a study of the city's Drake Power Plant sulfur dioxide emissions and found that even if $120 million worth of Neumann Systems Group's clean-up technology is installed, the plant will still pollute and violate federal standards.
The analysis was performed by Wingra Consultants of Madison, Wisc., which also helped a coal-fired lime kiln obtain an air quality permit, which is listed among its other projects here.
"Martin Drake causes dramatic excesses of the health-based National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide today, and even if Martin Drake is able to meet newly imposed Regional Haze emission limits with the experimental NeuStream pollution technology, Martin Drake’s toxic plume would still exceed the NAAQS limits for sulfur dioxide," a Sierra Club statement says.
In an interview Bryce Carter, a club spokesman, says he doesn't know how much the study cost the Sierra Club but the same study has been done more than 100 times across the country in the organization's campaign to rid the country of coal.
That's why Colorado Springs isn't the only city dealing with the Sierra Club's demands. Does this sound familiar?
Sierra Club's statement also cited another nonprofit, the Clean Air Task Force, in reporting a study showing $65 million in public health costs come from Drake, along with eight deaths per year.
Here's the Colorado map on the Clean Air Task Force website, which shows Colorado's risk among the lowest in the nation.
Dave Grossman at Utilities counters with the following statement:
The sulfur dioxide study commissioned by the Sierra Club uses theoretical modeling only. No actual testing of Colorado Springs’ air quality was conducted for the study. The EPA has not yet published guidance on appropriate assumptions for this modeling.
The EPA standard for sulfur dioxide prior to 2010 was 140 parts per billion (PPB), and in 2010 the standard was lowered to 75 PPB. In 2011, the State of Colorado Air Quality Control Commission determined that the Colorado Springs area met the standard.
In fact, ongoing local monitoring between 1988 and 2007 showed that sulfur dioxide levels were significantly lower than the EPA threshold. Sulfur dioxide levels were continuously tested downtown and at 10 other sites around Colorado Springs. The highest levels recorded each year ranged from 12 PPB to 26 PPB, well below the new standard. The sulfur dioxide monitoring program was discontinued in 2007 because the levels were consistently so much better than the EPA requirement.
We expect sulfur dioxide levels to be further improved after the recent switch to lower sulfur coal at the Drake Power Plant and the planned installation of additional emissions controls.
As an aside, realize that to replace Drake's 254 megawatt capacity with, say, solar would require installation of 40 solar arrays like the one at the Air Force Academy that sprawls over 41 acres. And then it doesn't produce power when the sun isn't shining.
Aside from all that, the Utilities Board, made up of City Council, is forming a task force that will choose a consultant to look at Drake and its viability over the long term, and whether it should be retired in 10, 15 or 20 years, or not at all. Members of the task force are to be proposed to the Council for appointment next week.