A two-to-one US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling has struck down an EPA clean air rule that would have required Nebraska power plants to lower emissions.
Hastings Utilities Manager Marv Schultes told US Senator Mike Johanns last year that complying with the standards set forth by the EPA's new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) would cost them millions and take years, not months as the rule allowed, to do.
"At the last minute the state of Nebraska got brought into the rule and it caused really some very difficult problems for us, could have caused problems for us if hadn't been stayed," says Schultes.
Now the rule has been stayed permanently by a federal court with judges saying the EPA exceeded their authority.
Johanns says he offered up amendments and legislation to halt the rule's implementation after talking with Nebraska public power authorities.
"The EPA was doing everything they could to achieve a result without giving the states any opportunity to offer input and that's illegal under the law," says Johanns.
Johanns says the goal of clean air is shared by all, and Schultes says that's why they're going to keep upgrading to new emission standards.
"The plant was built with the best available technology at the time, and over the years the technology has gotten better, and so now we're going to do our part to try and improve the plant and to make it even cleaner than clean," says Schultes.
Hastings will be putting in new burners that emit less nitrogen oxide, a move that would have helped them comply to the EPA's rule, but Schultes says even with that in place they would have still been looking at restricting generation and buying power to make up for it.
With no rule and no deadline, Schultes says they got more bids for the project and are finding it to be less expensive than they thought.
"For instance, the NOx burner is a $3.7 million improvement, well that's got to be paid for by the rate payer, but compared to what we thought it was going to be - more like $7 million - it's better news," he says.
The EPA said in a statement that they're reviewing the court's decision about what they call "an achievable" rule. They say the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) still stands and that states are still expected to comply, though Nebraska is not covered by CAIR.
The EPA says CSAPR could have save $120-280 billion in annual health care benefits and prevented more than 30,000 deaths.