Sierra Club Asks Entergy to Shut Down White Bluff, Independence Plants

Sierra Club Asks Entergy to Shut Down White Bluff, Independence Plants
Entergy's White Bluff coal plant.

The Sierra Club on Tuesday released the “2016 Arkansas Clean Air Solution,” a plan to clean up air pollution from coal plants owned by Entergy Arkansas that outlines a solution to meet federal clean-air safeguards under the Regional Haze Rule.

The rule is a program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and aims to clean up air pollution largely created by coal-fired power plants.

The Sierra Club report focuses on Arkansas’ two largest plants, Independence and White Bluff, both operated by Entergy, and says that Entergy should completely shut down both plants by 2027.

Entergy has previously stated that it plans to stop burning coal at White Bluff by 2028.

"Entergy Arkansas and plant co-owners proposed last summer a compromise plan to end all coal-fired operations at White Bluff’s two units in 2027 and 2028, when the plant will be nearly 50 years old and, therefore, avoid spending $1 billion on scrubbers there," company spokesperson Sally Graham said. "We provided the EPA a reasonable, long-term, multi-unit approach to address regional haze that achieves the state of Arkansas’ obligations for reasonable progress while providing our customers with reliable and affordable electricity.

"We disagree that the Independence units are required to cease using coal in this time period. Our proposal saves our customers and our co-owners the $2 billion price tag for EPA’s proposed FIP."

According to Glen Hooks, director of the Arkansas Sierra Club, the plans have operated for more than 30 years without modern pollution controls for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

The EPA is set to finalize a regional haze plan for Arkansas in August. Under the EPA’s proposal, released in April 2015, the two plants will be required to significantly reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide.

Often, these reductions are achieved using pollution control technology called scrubbers. As an alternative to expensive scrubbers, Sierra Club suggests other options in its solution.

“The Sierra Club’s proposal is a pathway to a better future for the Natural State,” Hooks said. “It’s time for Arkansas to get in the clean energy game and move to high-technology, renewable, homegrown energy solutions. Our plan eliminates the need to install costly updates to clean up Entergy’s dirty and outdated plants, saving customers money and helping support a clean energy economy.”

According to Graham, Entergy has entered into a power purchase agreement for the largest utility-scale solar project in the state. She said the energy generated and supplied from the solar facility will reduce the demand for energy from other, primarily fossil fueled, generation resources.

The facility is expected to be online no later than mid-2019 and will produce enough clean energy to power approximately 13,000 homes.

"Replacing White Bluff and Independence with solar, wind and geothermal is unrealistic, not economic and not a reliable nor a responsible solution for customers and for supporting the continued economic development opportunities in Arkansas," Graham said. 

The Sierra Club’s 2016 Arkansas Clean Air Solution outlines five steps for the state to “move forward with a regional haze compromise.”

  • Entergy Arkansas will propose a plan to state and federal regulators that avoids the significant capital investnment of building scrubbers at the White Bluff and Independence plants, saving residential and business customers the millions of dollars of costs of paying for these upgrades.
  • The Sierra Club agrees to support this five-point compromise and work toward its approval instead of pushing for scrubbing the two large coal plants. Most importantly, the Sierra Club will support Entergy’s operation of Independence and White Bluff from today to 2025/2027 without having to install scrubbers or asking its customers to make any other significant capital expenses at either plant.
  • Instead of installing scrubbers at White Bluff, Entergy will phase out the use of coal at the plant over the next nine years (by 2025). Instead of installing scrubbers at Independence, Entergy will phase out the use of coal at the plant over the next 11 years (by 2027).
  • Entergy will present a long-term plan between 2020 and 2022 to the Public Service Commission that considers repowering opportunities at the two plant sites with a focus on local job opportunities, new construction and zero carbon and low carbon alternatives.
  • Entergy and the Sierra Club will work with state regulators to replace at least half the capacity of the White Bluff and Independence plants with renewable sources of power like solar, wind and geothermal energy.