The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council has refused to dismiss an Earthjustice appeal of an air quality permit issued to the Dry Fork power plant by the state Department of Environmental Quality in October.
By unanimously rejecting Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s motion to dismiss, the council has allowed local citizen groups to continue fighting for a clean and healthy future, said Robin Cooley, Earthjustice attorney representing Powder River Basin Resource Council, Sierra Club, and Wyoming Outdoor Council.
Under its current permit, the plant would utilize outdated technology that would post significant health risks to the surrounding community, Cooley said. The groups brought the challenge to make sure the future coal-fired power plant outside Gillette will be built using the best pollution control technology possible.
“We’re pleased that the council recognized the right of citizens to hold DEQ accountable for its decisions — decisions that impact public health and the air and water resources of Wyoming,” stated Bruce Pendery of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. “This power plant will degrade Gillette’s air for decades to come. We need to make sure this project meets every legal obligation to protect the health of Wyoming communities before such a huge commitment is made.”
In addition to impacting local air quality, the plant will also impact regional air and water quality. The Dry Fork plant will contribute to acid rain in the region and haze in areas like the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Badlands National Park and Wind Cave National Park.
Also on Tuesday, in a 5-1 vote, the council upheld DEQ’s motion to dismiss parts of the challenge related to the lack of regulation of global warming pollution, including carbon dioxide. Coal-fired power plants are the leading contributors to global climate change, and the Dry Fork Station is estimated to produce 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide and 25.3 tons of methane each year during its long existence.
“As one of the leading energy producers in the nation, we wanted Wyoming to also be a leader in addressing impacts from global warming pollution,” said Shannon Anderson of the Powder River Basin Resource Council.
The case will culminate in a hearing during the week of November 17 this fall. More information on the Dry Fork case, including case documents, is available at http://deq.state.wy.us/eqc/docket.htm.