EPA regulations prompt closure of Utah power plant

Oct 21, 2013

Mercury and Air Toxics Standards proposed in 2011 by the Environmental Protection Agency are slated to take effect soon—prompting the early closure of a Utah Power Plant. The Carbon Power Plant near Helper, Utah will close five years ahead of schedule in April of 2015.

Mercury emission limits prompted the closure of Carbon Power Plant near Helper, Utah.
Mercury emission limits prompted the closure of Carbon Power Plant near Helper, Utah.
Credit Environmental Protection Agency

Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Dave Eskelsen said the company determined that changes to make the 60-year-old plant compliant with the new standards would not be possible.

“As we worked out our compliance strategy with the new regulations, the most cost effective thing for customers was to retire the plant,” Eskelsen said.

Some upgrades, like the addition of a “baghouse” filter, are not physically possible due to the plant’s close proximity to tight canyon walls.

Eskelsen said the company had been contemplating an early closure since the regulations were proposed.

“We recognize the geographic and economic contribution that these facilities make to the communities in which they operate and this is a difficult decision for the company to make because of that,” Eskelsen said.

Rocky Mountain Power began meeting with Carbon and Emery counties in September of 2011 to discuss the effects of a possible closure, especially for the plant’s 70 employees.

“Some of the employees have already planned for early retirement. We hope to be able to place most of the other employees in other jobs within the company,” Eskelsen said.

According to the EPA, power plants are the source for 50 percent of mercury emissions in the U.S. and 75 percent of other acid gasses. The agency predicts the new emissions standards will prevent over 45,000 premature deaths.

Coal-fired power will continue to provide 60 percent of Rocky Mountain Power’s output.