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Illinois Rule Requires Four Coal Plants to Switch Fuels
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Illinois Rule Requires Four Coal Plants to Switch Fuels


In an October 1 opinion and order implementing new rules to require eight stationary sources to comply with new emission limits for sulfur dioxide, the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) is requiring NRG Energy Inc. to modify four power stations in Will County to burn fuels other than coal, such as natural gas or distillate fuel oil, effectively eliminating SO2 pollution from those units.  While the rules will boost air quality across the state, the IPCB said its action would have a major impact on the nonattainment communities of Pekin in Central Illinois and Lemont, a suburb of Chicago.  EPA set the health-based hourly air quality standard for sulfur dioxide at 75 parts per billion in 2010. 


NRG is overhauling its operational strategy in Illinois after purchasing the assets of Midwest Generation LLC in 2014, and several of the changes conform to the requirements envisioned under the IPCB's rulemaking as the company is currently investing $567 million in its Illinois fleet to improve pollution controls and converting some units to burn natural gas. In 2017, ceasing coal combustion will reduce SO2 emissions from the NRG plants by 6,000 tons and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 3,000 tons, compared to the rules currently in effect.


The IPCB's order describes three goals for the rulemaking:


• Establish SO2 emissions limits for specific sources. Based on computer modeling, the rules create specific SO2 limits for eight facilities in order to meet attainment targets under the NAAQS. Units can achieve compliance through the use of pollution-control equipment, switching fuels or operational modifications.


• Establish sulfur content limits for liquid fuels for all stationary sources. All units must comply with sulfur content limits of 1,000 parts per million for residual fuel oil and 15 ppm for distillate fuel oil.


• Address steps for the conversion of four coal-fired generating stations to fuels other than coal. The rules modify the terms by which the four units would remain subject to the Combined Pollutant Standard (CPS), established by Illinois in 2007 to control emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and mercury. The rules waive certain control, monitoring and record-keeping requirements with respect to emissions of mercury and particulate matter.


The rulemaking still requires the approval of the Illinois General Assembly's Joint Committee for Administrative Rules (JCAR).  The IPCB's order is available at

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