Guardians Calls on EPA to Overturn Illegal Coal Permits in Wyoming
Six Coal-fired Power Plants and Coal Mine Skirting Clean Air Act
risks to public health and the environment, WildEarth Guardians today called on
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to overturn illegal air pollution
permits for six coal-fired power plants and a coal mine in the Powder River
“Coal-fired power plants are the largest of air pollution in
this country and the dirtiest form of energy,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth
Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “All we’re doing is calling on the EPA to either fix these
illegal permits or stop these plants from polluting.”
The power plants and coal mine are concentrated east of Gillette,
Wyoming at a site called the “Neil Simpson Energy Complex.” This complex consists of six coal-fired
power plants—Neil Simpson I, Neil Simpson II, Wygen I, Wygen II, Wygen III, and
Wyodak—that collectively have the capacity of 742 megawatts. These plants are fed by the nearby
Wyodak coal mine, a large strip mine in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, the
nation’s largest coal producing region.
Together, the coal-fired power plants and coal mine annually
release more than 9,635 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions—as much as 504,000
passenger vehicles—and more than 1,700 tons of microscopic particulate matter
In a petition filed with EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson,
WildEarth Guardians cited the fact that air pollution permits issued by the
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality failed to comply with the federal
Clean Air Act. The petition called
on the EPA to order the State of Wyoming to fix the permits or face revocation.
At issue is that the Wyoming Department of Environmental
Quality has allowed the coal-fired power plants and the coal mine to
collectively skirt the safeguards of the Clean Air Act. Rather than regulating the Neil Simpson
Energy complex as a single source of air pollution, the State has instead
regulated each coal-fired power plant and the coal mine separately.
The Clean Air Act requires sources of air pollution that are
adjacent to be regulated together as a single source of air pollution. Far from a trivial requirement of the
Clean Air Act, because the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has
refused to regulate the Neil Simpson Energy Complex as a single source of air
pollution, the coal-fired power plants and the coal mine have avoided more
stringent Clean Air Act safeguards.
Notably, although the Clean Air Act requires that older
sources of air pollution make air pollution control upgrades once they are
modified, several of the coal-fired power plants, as well as the coal mine, at
the Neil Simpson Energy Complex have not been required to make upgrades, even
as new coal-fired power plants have been built.
“This petition promises greater transparency, greater
control of air pollution, and exactly the kind of oversight that has been
sorely lacking,” said Nichols.
“Clean air has to come before dirty energy here in the West if we have
any chance of safeguarding our lands, our communities, and our climate.”
WildEarth Guardians has called on the EPA Administrator to
respond to the petition within 60 days.