A major feature of the programme agreed by Tampa Electric Company and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is the conversion of the utility’s Gannon Station from coal to natural gas.

The company is one of seven Midwest and Southern utilities accused by the EPA of violating the Clean Air Act. (see related story)

The EPA is suing American Electric Power, Cinergy, FirstEnergy, Illinois Power, Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Company, Southern Company and Tampa Electric Company.

The lawsuit is intended to force the companies to install appropriate air pollution-control technology at 17 ageing power stations. In addition, EPA has issued an administrative order against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for pollution violations at seven plants.

The company’s announcement comes as a number of states launched suits against the utilities. Vermont will join the EPA suit against American Electric Power and may also take action against the other utilities. Last week, New York and Connecticut jointly filed a parallel suit against AEP. New Jersey said it will join the federal lawsuit.

Tampa said it will shut down Gannon Station’s Coal-fired Units 1, 2 and 6 by the end of 2004, while Units 3, 4 and 5 will be re-powered with new technology and switched to natural gas at a cost of some $600 million.

The redeveloped plant will be renamed Bayside Power Station and will provide 1,475MW of electricity.

“At Tampa Electric, we’re always evaluating the most cost-effective, environmentally responsive technologies available to expand our power generation capabilities,” said Tampa Electric President John Ramil. “Through implementation of this different technology, we will be able to significantly reduce environmental emissions while providing clean, reliable and affordable energy to our customers.”

Tampa Electric said its decision to reconfigure the station was based on several factors including customer demand for cheap electricity, environmental regulations and the availability of natural gas from proposed pipelines in the area.

The utility also admits the agreement with DEP “responds” to the US EPA lawsuit, but Tampa Electric claims the agreement and environmental programme have been in development “for many months.” “We have been in extensive discussions and negotiations with the EPA for over two years as part of a corporate effort to develop and implement a long-range environmental strategy,” a Tampa Electric spokesperson told edie.

However, DEP has suggested the agreement was largely driven by the lawsuit. “The lawsuit was definitely a catalyst to this change, and we have to give the Federal Government credit for that,” a DEP spokesperson told edie. “TECO had 30 days to respond, and the State of Florida and TECO used each and every day of those 30 days to come up with a plan that would drastically cut emissions and bring the utility company into compliance. By requiring TECO to take the actions outlined, the uncertainties, delay, and expense of litigation will be avoided and the work on this $1-billion program can begin immediately.”

The company expects to reduce sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions by almost 80 percent and emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) by over 85 percent by the year 2010 from 1997 levels.

Tampa Electric is also working with the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County to develop a voluntary program to lower nitrogen oxide emissions.

In addition to the conversion of Gannon Station to combined cycle gas turbines, the plan calls for the company to:

  • maximise the efficiency of the new scrubber serving Units 1 and 2 at Big Bend Station to achieve a 95 percent sulphur removal efficiency
  • achieve NOx emission reductions of 33,400 tons from the Big Bend Station units by 2010, with significant reductions as early as 2007
  • undertake a study of improved particulate removal and monitoring at Big Bend Station and make improvements based on results
  • invest up to $8 million for developing innovative technologies for reducing NOx emissions
  • co-operate with DEP on its Bay Regional Air Chemistry Experiment program that studies nitrogen deposition in Tampa Bay, including contributing of up to $2 million.
  • collaborate with DEP to develop and implement state tax policy aimed at emissions reductions and other environmental programs.

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