Duke seeks more time for coal units

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By Pat Faherty

Special to the Citizen

Duke Energy Florida is planning on spending approximately $30 million to keep its oldest Crystal River coal burning plants in service through mid-2018.

Last month, Duke filed a petition with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to recover anticipated environmental costs from ratepayers to keep the plants running.

The two plants, CR 1 and CR 2, have been operating since the late 1960s and have been scheduled for retirement.

The company has evaluated alternatives and determined CR 1 and 2 would require more than $1 billion of additional emission control systems to meet the national Mercury Air Toxics Standards Rule (MATS) as stand-alone units.

However, the two other Crystal River coal-burning units are within the MATS limits. So, Duke wants to use the site-wide averaging provisions of MATS along with alternative coal and the addition of less expensive pollution controls, according to the petition.

“If approved by the PSC, it would allow us to burn a coal that has lower sulfur, mercury and chlorides,” said Duke Energy spokesman Sterling Ivy. “If we also receive an extension of our MATS permit, we will retire CR 1 and 2 in 2018 when new federal regulations are in place prohibiting the continued use of CR 1 and 2.”

He explained the extension is necessary to continue using the plants.

The Sierra Club filed with PSC asserting Duke should retire the plants in 2016. It stated: Duke has not fully accounted for the costs of continued operation of CR 1, Duke has failed to account for energy efficiency helping to meet load requirements in the absence of CR 1 and 2, and Duke has given “short shrift” to renewable resources.

The PSC discounted those arguments and stated Duke’s plan will save an estimated $300 million, compared to retiring the units in 2016.

Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or pfaherty@chronicleonline.com.