Regional Haze issues in North Dakota – A Quick History
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began monitoring air quality and visibility in 156 national parks and wilderness areas in 1988. In 1999, the EPA issued the final Regional Haze Rule to improve air quality and visibility in those areas, also known as, Class 1 areas – for North Dakota, that’s the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge. The EPA measures visibility in national parks using miles of visual range and “deciviews.” The haze rule required that states develop a plan, known as the State Implementation Plan (SIP), to reduce pollution and improve air quality.
In 2011, the EPA filed to take over North Dakota’s air quality program with a federal implementation program (FIP) because it didn’t believe North Dakota’s SIP didn’t go far enough to remove nitrous oxide (NOx). The utilities in North Dakota challenged the decision, arguing that the technology approved by the EPA was unproven to work well with lignite, North Dakota’s fuel source.
The final decision on what was to be done was delayed until last week. Friday, March 2, brought the announcement that the EPA would accept the SIP for Minnkota Power Cooperative’s Milton R. Young Station and Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Leland Olds Station (read the EPA story here from the Bismarck Tribune). However, the decision excluded Basin Electric’s Antelope Valley Station and Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station.
The Antelope Valley Station must have low nitrous oxide burners installed to comply and return under the SIP. Coal Creek Station continues to work with the North Dakota Department of Health to reach an agreement. The plant currently uses a DryFining system to increase efficiency and reduce emissions below North Dakota’s NOx limit, and the company says that the installation of the FIP technology (selective non-catalytic reduction) would have minimal impact for large expense. Read Great River Energy’s regional haze statement here.