Our Clean Air
Electric cooperative members
have a keen interest in clean air. As generators of electric power, many
electric co-ops are asked by their members what investments they are making
to meet or exceed current clean air standards.
After talking with the plant
managers, I learned about a number of changes theyve made in recent
years. They also told me about numerous projects they have on the drawing
board to reduce emissions even more.
One thing I notice when I visit
a power plant is that the emissions from the smokestacks are almost transparent.
I recall when the emissions were darker and I wondered what brought about
the change. I was truly impressed with what I found out.
Our electric cooperatives operate
eight power plants to provide electricity to about 2 million people. These
units consist of three coal plant sites, four natural gas plants and one
fuel oil plant. Our cooperative system also purchases large amounts of
hydroelectric power from the federal government. They have enough capacity
to meet their member needs.
Since 1994, the electric cooperative
system has cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 84 percent! This significant
reduction was achieved through the closing of Missouri coal mines and
making changes that allow us to burn low-sulfur western coal. The coal
is shipped by rail from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. On a per ton
basis, the shipping cost is more than the cost of the coal.
In addition to being one of
the first utilities to switch to low-sulfur coal, electric cooperative
owners took the lead in reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Over
the past two years, they have added selective catalytic reduction
equipment to the two coal-fired plants at New Madrid. As a result of this
investment, they are able to achieve a 70 percent reduction in nitrogen
oxide emissions over a 12-month period. During the peak ozone periods,
this equipment is capable of achieving a 93 percent NOx reduction.
New technology to modify the
combustion process on a large coal-fired unit was recently installed at
the Thomas Hill power plant site near Macon. As a result, NOx emissions
were reduced by 50 percent. They will install this same technology on
the other two units as soon as possible.
Over the past six years, electric
cooperatives have invested more than $300 million on state-of-the-art
emission controls. Over that same period, they have spent nearly $600
million in the construction of low-emission natural gas plants to serve
the needs of cooperative members.
The more than 400 electric
co-op directors who live and work in rural Missouri assure me they are
firmly committed to their costly but worthwhile clean air objective. As
they plan for future electric power supply, they will continue to strongly
support a balanced economic and environmental approach to a national energy
Stork was executive
vice president of the Association of Missouri
Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.