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Wed, Jan. 29

New air quality rules won't affect Griffith, Mohave Generating Station

The relaxed air pollution rules approved by the Bush administration on Friday will not affect power plants and major manufacturers in the Kingman area, industry and state officials said.

The rules do not affect power plants such as the Griffith Energy Project because they installed new technology, they said.

The rules also do not affect a previously approved permit that requires North Star Steel to control emissions and a lawsuit settlement that requires the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin to reduce pollution.

"The bottom line is that the Griffith Energy Project is not practically affected by this (rule change)," said Stan Barnes, a Phoenix-based lobbyist who serves as a spokesman for the owners of the natural gas-fired power plant.

"We are using best-available (pollution) control technology," he said.

"The plant is so brand new.

… It is a state-of-the-art facility.

It is not even officially one year old.

We are still on the cutting edge of the cleanest, efficient (electric) generation possible using natural gas."

The rules also will not affect the consent decree reached by environmental groups and the owners of the coal-fired power plant in Laughlin, said Don Hendren, community affairs director.

The decree, reached in October 1999, requires the plant's owners to install a sulfur dioxide scrubber and a fabric filter baghouse by Jan.

1, 2006.

"We have upgraded our environmental controls many times over the years," Hendren said.

He described the low-sulfur coal piped in from the Peabody mines on the Navajo Reservation as being "the cleanest-burning coal in the United States."

Hendren said the new rules could have changed the game if the consent decree had not been reached.

The new rules are designed to make it easier for major industries to obtain permits when they expand, said Patrick Gibbons, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in Phoenix.

He said ADEQ officials commented during the revision process with their counterparts in the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency, which enforces federal clean air laws.

"For a long time, we've known that the new source review process requires revision because it is very tedious, it is very complicated and in some ways it provides disincentives for companies to modernize," Gibbons said.

The Bush administration on Friday eased clean air rules to allow utilities, refineries and manufacturers to avoid having to install expensive new anti-pollution equipment when they modernize their plants.

The long-awaited regulation issued by the EPA drew fire from environmentalists, state air quality regulators and attorneys general in several Northeast states who promised a lawsuit to try to reverse the action.

But EPA Administrator Christie Whitman rejected critics' claims that the changes would produce dirtier air, saying in a statement they would encourage emission reductions by providing utilities and refinery operators new flexibility.

ADEQ bases its clean air standards on federal standards, Gibbons said.

He said the changes would not affect the North Star Steel mini-mill west of Kingman because ADEQ previously issued a major-source air pollution permit that requires the company to install a baghouse and other technology.

ADEQ issued a minor-source permit before the mini-mill opened in 1996.

North Star Steel, which was fined heavily by the state Attorney General's Office for violating its permit, will be allowed to increase emissions of pollutants such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and other pollutions under the terms of the major-source permit granted in May.

Officials from North Star Steel and its parent company, Minneapolis-based Cargill, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Gibbons said, "No one's emission caps are raised as a result of this (rule change).

It won't increase pollution per se.

"An optimist will say it lessens the burden of modernization, therefore providing an incentive for major sources to renovate or modernize, thereby lowering emissions," Gibbons said.

"A skeptic would say that it also may have the effect of lessening the stringent requirements that were provided by the earlier process."

Joining the skeptics' camp is Debbie Coffman, a clean-air advocate who works in a health food store in Kingman and spoke out in public hearings against North Star Steel being issued a major-source permit.

"I think we are going backwards," Coffman said.

"I think that instead of relaxing our rules and regulations, we should find ways to make sure that these corporations are not allowed to pollute our air any more than they have already been allowed."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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