Operations at NRG remain unchanged as EPA executive order moves forward

Avon Lake

By Nicole Hennessy

NRG Energy’s Avon Lake power plant is operating as usual after President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week to undo regulations put in place under the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP) initiative, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal and oil.

The CPP never went into effect, as the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay in Feb. 2016, halting its implementation. The initiative would have fallen under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Air Act, which affects coal-burning plants like NRG’s operations.

The EPA’s mercury and air toxics standards (MATS) stem from this act.

It is in response to MATS rules that called for reduced toxin emissions (like sulphur dioxide, chlorine and mercury) that the plant added pollution control devices to its boilers and switched to a different mixture of coal.

The path to compliance originally included a 20-mile pipeline running from southern Lorain County to Avon Lake, allowing NRG to ditch coal in favor of natural gas.

The pipeline was approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board in June 2015, despite pleas from homeowners whose properties would be affected by eminent domain.

In large part, the pipeline delay had to do with a seasonal prohibition on the removal of trees along the proposed gas line – a measure that was aimed to protect the endangered Indiana Bat during its mating season.

This pushed NRG’s timeline back too much and, in the end, the company had to stick with coal to meet the federal guidelines, its future sights still set on natural gas.

With the new executive order in place, a national moratorium has also been lifted for drilling on federal land.

These rules, if they remain in effect, may affect where companies like NRG obtain their coal or
natural gas supplies.

NRG spokesman David Gaier said, for now, “the executive order doesn’t really affect plant
operations.”

“We will still operate our environmental controls; we will still continue to use low-sulfur coal, so we don’t anticipate many changes whatsoever,” he added.

“The MATS rule, which is the important rule here, is still in effect.”

Gaier said he’s unsure what will happen in Washington D.C. in the near future.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” he ventured, adding that whatever standards the federal and state government implements are what will be followed.

“NRG will continue to operate with a focus on safety and environmental compliance,” he said.

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