Monday, September 12, 2016

UPDATE: Citizens challenge EPA over Drake Power Plant

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 1:37 PM

click to enlarge Drake Power Plant south of downtown. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Drake Power Plant south of downtown.
UPDATE:
Here's what Colorado Springs Utilities had to say about allegations that Drake Power Plant violates pollution regulations:
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recommended to the Environmental Protection Agency an unclassifiable designation for Colorado Springs for sulfur dioxide (SO2) citing “disparate monitoring and modeling information.”

As part of this designation, an extensive public process was held that allowed citizens to comment. As part of its evaluation, CDPHE noted, “Historical ambient monitoring in the Colorado Springs metropolitan area and current ambient SO2 monitoring near the Drake Power Plant shows that the 1-hour SO2 NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards) has not been violated.”

We support CDPHE in its efforts to gather additional information to determine attainment for Colorado Springs by:
· announcing the shutdown of Drake Unit 5 by the end of 2016; and
· supporting the collection of meteorology data to be used to evaluate ongoing air quality monitoring or used to model air quality.

Over the last few decades we have dramatically reduced SO2 emissions from both our coal-fired power plants and are projecting even further decreases with the improvements we are making now to comply with Colorado’s Regional Haze Rule by installing SO2 scrubbers.
——-ORIGINAL POST 1:37 P.M. MONDAY, SEPT. 12, 2016—————————

A group of people campaigning to shut down the downtown Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs has appealed a ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency in July that inadequate data is available to measure air quality around the plant.

Named as plaintiffs in the action are Sam Masias, Jacqueline Ostrom and Jim Riggins. Read the appeal notice here:
SO2_DESIGNATION_PETITION_FOR_REVIEW.pdf
Colorado Springs Utilities' board, comprised of City Council, has voted to close Drake by 2035, but that's not soon enough for some citizens. A unique pollution control device known as the NeuStream scrubber is being installed on Drake, and is due to begin operations next year. The project has run millions of dollars over budget.

Here's the news release from the citizens seeking a review of the EPA's determination:
A coalition of citizens who reside in the Pikes Peak region filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) over the US EPA’s failure to properly protect residents from harmful sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution that has been demonstrated to exist in levels in Colorado Springs that can cause asthma attacks and even death. The appeal challenges a determination made by the US EPA in July, 2016 that insufficient data was available to accurately measure the air quality surrounding the Martin Drake Power Plant, and thus an unclassifiable designation was set by the US EPA. This designation, which means the owner of the polluting source will have to do nothing to stop dumping its pollution on residents of Colorado Springs, was made despite several independent studies of the air quality using US EPA’s own computer model and weather data from the nearby Colorado Springs Airport which all showed severe exceedances of US EPA’s air quality standard for sulfur dioxide in the Pikes Peak region.

“The EPA needs to take more responsible action to enforce the SO2 limits set forth in the Clean Air Act, to protect the health of citizens in the Colorado Springs region," said Sam Masias, a named petitioner in the appeal. Jacquie Ostrom, also a petitioner who has asthma and lives to the west side of the Martin Drake Plant demonstrated to be an area with the deepest concentrations of SO2 pollution it emits, stated “those of us already affected by the pollution from this power plant don’t have the luxury of waiting, when air quality around it has already been shown to be in violation of federal health based standards.”

Despite not having conducted any of its own air quality analyses, Colorado Springs Utilities, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the US EPA unfairly dismissed those studies.

BACKGROUND

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six common air pollutants, including particle pollution, ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, lead and sulfur oxides. Strong correlation has been proven to exist between sulfur dioxide exposure at high levels for even a short five minute duration, with increased incidences of asthma, shortness of breath, heart attack and reduced lung functioning causing increased hospital visits and even premature death.

According to the American Lung Association, coal-fired power plants, such as Martin Drake, remain one of the biggest sources of sulfur dioxide in the U.S. The plume from a coal-fired plant touches down at ground level during high wind conditions or gets trapped by inversions in the atmosphere. People who live and work nearby these large sources get the highest exposure to SO2. 

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