Clean Air

Whelan Energy Center near Hastings, Nebraska

Nebraska’s utilities spend millions of dollars every year to keep power plants in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local environmental regulations.

New power plants contain state-of-the-art equipment to protect the environment. Nebraska’s newest coal-fired power plant is Unit 2 of the Whelan Energy Center (WEC) located about two miles east of Hastings, Nebraska. The plant cost about $620 million to construct; of that sum, approximately $120 million was spent on equipment to protect the environment.  This equipment includes a flue gas desulfurization (FGD) unit, or scrubber, a baghouse, and an electrostatic precipitator. This equipment will capture nearly all of the sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) mercury, and particulate emissions from the generator, which began operating in May 2011.

Another recently completed large power plant, Nebraska City Unit 2, includes about $65 million of state-of-the-art emission control equipment.

The environmental regulation of power plants—particularly by federal actions—is changing in significant ways, all of which are likely to increase the price of your electricity and the size of your monthly bill. In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized two new regulations to lower a variety of emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants, using its authority in the federal Clean Air Act. Then, in early 2012, the EPA issued the first-ever rule for controlling emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants.

These new regulations could require NPA members with coal- or oil-fired power plants to spend hundreds of millions of customer dollars to install equipment to lower emissions from those power plants. Some older power plants may be closed because the cost of complying with the new regulations would be more than those plants are worth. Nebraska’s utilities are considering a variety of other compliance options that balance environmental, energy, economic and legal interests.

To read more about the EPA’s Clean Air Act rules, and how they might affect Nebraskans, click here.