Entergy Arkansas to phase out 1 gas, 2 coal plants in Clean Air Act settlement
- Entergy Arkansas and environmental advocacy groups have reached a settlement for the utility to stop burning coal at two plants, develop 800 MW of renewables and take other steps to reduce air pollution and haze in national parks and neighboring states.
- The settlement stems from allegations that Entergy violated multiple federal and state Clean Air Act regulations and was filed in the federal district court for the Eastern District of Arkansas by the Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).
- Entergy will stop burning coal entirely at its White Bluff and Independence plants by the end of 2028 and 2030, respectively. The settlement also ensures the Lake Catherine gas plant will be shuttered by 2027 and that the facility will burn only natural gas until then, though it is capable of consuming fuel oil.
On its face, the settlement is a win for clean energy. But a settlement implies some kind of exchange, and Entergy notes high up in its announcement that despite the plant closures, it is not restricting itself on future generation options.
"The agreement allows the company to move forward with plans to replace these older generating plants with newer, highly efficient generation resources for Arkansas," the company said, leaving open the possibility more gas-fired generation could be developed there.
The settlement preserves Entergy’s ability to pursue new power generation, "but we are not committing to a specific type at this time. We are going to do what makes the most economic sense for our customers," spokesman Neal Kirby said in an email to Utility Dive.
Sierra Club officials say, given the time frame, they are confident Entergy will not simply add more gas.
"In so far as additional power might be contemplated, the time period between now and 2030 should be sufficient for Entergy Arkansas to operate the coal units in the near term without an immediate rush to replace them 1 for 1 with new gas generation," Al Armendariz, who works with Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, told Utility Dive in an email. "They have time to take advantage of the falling prices for solar power and [Southwest Power Pool] wind power and to maximize both of those."
The group says it will also be working with utilities to boost efficiency in Arkansas. Entergy says the settlement could save customers billions.
Under the Clean Air Act’s regional haze program, both coal plants were subject to a currently-stayed requirement of installing emissions control technologies by 2021 or ceasing to use coal at the plants. The utility said that if the settlement is approved, it "will avoid this requirement, saving customers potentially $2 billion."
Though Entergy has not made a decision on what will replace the plants, it has committed to "pursue approval" of 800 MW of renewables, with at least half of that presented to regulators before the end of 2022. The remaining 400 MW would need to be proposed by the end of 2027.
The goals include 181 MW of solar in Arkansas already approved by regulators, the utility said.
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