- Regulators, environmental groups and the owner of the Bonanza Power Plant have reached a three-way settlement that could lead to early retirement at the coal-fired facility, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
- The settlement comes as a result of an appeal of the plant's title V operated permit, issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The appeal was filed by environmental groups WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club.
- Deseret Electric Power Cooperative, which operates the facility, has agreed to install pollution controls, reduce coal burn and potentially shutter the plant by 2030.
The 500 MW Bonanza power plant, which burns about 2 million tons of coal annually, will be limited to 20 million tons for the remainder of its operating life after 2020, meaning it could be closed by 2030.
The plant will get catalytic control technology installed at the end of 2030, if the facility keeps running. Environmental groups touted the deal as an "early retirement," though the facility could continue to operate past 2030.
"For a utility in Utah to agree to something like this is a very big deal, and it shows that the economics of coal are really starting to be felt, even by staunch coal boosters," WildEarth's energy policy director Jeremy Nichols told the Tribune. "This is an offer to limit coal moving forward. Once they reach the limit, [the coal-burning power station] will go away.
The utility issued a statement defending coal as a "mainstay of our backbone energy supply," while also acknowledging the challenges it faces.
"There is undeniably a greater desire to include diversified alternative energy resources as part of the overall energy mix. This agreement addresses and allows for that natural progression to occur in a sensible manner over time," said David Crabtree, attorney for the cooperative.
The settlement ensures the plant will keep producing even at a lower level, though the utility contends the costs of retrofitting the plant will pass on to ratepayers.
EPA issued a title V operating permit to the facility in 2014. Despite finding that an earlier license failed to apply Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) regulations properly, the agency "determined that at this time it is not appropriate or equitable to include compliance provisions regarding the PSD correction permit in the final title V permit."
The power plant is Utah's fourth-biggest, which supplies electricity to neighboring states Wyoming and Nevada and is located on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in northeastern Utah.