Minnesota Power Firm Wants Its Day in Court
Xcel Energy says it wants to be allowed to defend its Sherco power plant in federal court against charges that the emissions from the coal-fired plant in Becker, Minn., are creating the haze that hangs over two national parks.
Minneapolis-based Xcel filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis late Tuesday (Feb. 12) asking to be allowed to join a lawsuit filed in December by six environmental groups against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported.
The groups charged the EPA was failing to enforce clean air standards over Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota and Isle Royale National Park in Michigan.
The environmentalists said the EPA should order Xcel to retrofit two of the plant’s oldest units with expensive equipment or replace them with plants that run on cleaner natural gas or renewable resources.
The alternatives could cost the utility hundreds of millions of dollars. The company says it now is investing $50 million to cut sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions at Sherco Units 1 and 2.
Xcel wants to enter the lawsuit as a defendant to protect its own interests, regional vice president Laura McCarten said. The EPA’s main interest is administering the Clean Air Act, she said.
“Our plant is the sole object of this lawsuit, and the potential outcomes can have a significant impact on our customers,” McCarten said in a statement released Wednesday.
Sherco’s Units 1 and 2 were built in the 1970s, and the company is evaluating the cost of keeping them, particularly in light of expected rules on pollution and climate change. The utility expects to submit the results of its study to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in July.