By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The state of Wyoming and PacifiCorp have reached an agreement to keep the coal-fired Jim Bridger power plant operational beyond April 30, its slated shutdown date.
Gov. Mark Gordon announced on Thursday that the two groups had reached an agreement to keep Unit 2 of the power plant operational beyond April 30.
PacifiCorp plans to convert Unit 2 and Unit 1 at the power plant to burn natural gas. Unit 2 was to be shut down on April 30, although Unit 1 was not scheduled for immediate shutdown.
Under the agreement reached by the state and power company, Unit 2 will continue operating after April 30 while the state will adhere to Pacificorp’s planned eventual conversion for both units.
The conversion may take up to two years, and it was important to Wyoming officials that both units continued to operate until the conversion is done, Gordon said.
Unit 2 is operating under a suspension order issued by Gordon on Dec. 31, 2021, which allowed continued operation of the unit through April 30.
PacifiCorp has agreed to issue a request for proposal for carbon capture facilities to be added to the power plant’s Units 3 and/or 4.
While not a part of the Jim Bridger power plant agreement, PacifiCorp also agreed to issue a similar request for proposal for Unit 4 of the Dave Johnston Power Plant near Douglas.
The agreement was formalized in a consent decree issued by by a state district court earlier this week. This consent decree ensures PacifiCorp’s compliance with the Regional Haze requirements while the state and power company work to amend the company’s permits and the state’s implementation plan to reflect the conversion of the power units to natural gas.
Gordon said he is confident this agreement represents a sound path forward, and remained hopeful that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will agree.
“I am cautiously optimistic that this arrangement will actually stick, unlike the earlier agreement in which EPA reversed course,” Gordon said. “There are still procedural steps to take and the public will have opportunities to comment in the future.”
The consent decree was submitted to EPA Thursday as part of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s comments regarding EPA’s proposed disapproval of the revised state implementation plan.
The state and federal governments in 2020 had agreed to a regional haze program that would allow the plant to continue operating, but after President Joe Biden took office, the EPA reversed its decision and ordered the plant to comply with rules previously in place.
The federal haze program seeks to reduce pollution to increase visibility, which has proved troublesome for the southeastern Wyoming power plant.