Evansville Courier & Press (IN) - February 18, 2016
Author/Byline: Mark Wilson Edition: A Section: Local Page: 4A
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says Posey County’s air quality fails to meet new standards for sulfur dioxide pollution around Vectren’s A.B. Brown power plant.
Indiana’s southwestern-most county would be branded partially in nonattainment of the standards under new proposed designations released by the agency on Wednesday.
The EPA also is proposing to designate in nonattainment part of Jefferson County around the Clifty Creek power plant owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corporation. The public now has 30 days to comment on the proposed regulations, after which the EPA has 90 days to review any comments.
Sulfur dioxide emissions from the A.B. Brown coal-burning power plant [pictured above] rose from 5,293 tons in 2010 to 8,080 tons in 2014, according to the EPA’s Clean Air Markets database.
Annual sulfur dioxide emissions “basically follow generation,” fluctuating with the amount of power produced, said Angela Retherford, Vectren’s vice president for environmental affairs.
Vectren operates scrubbers — pollution controls to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions — on its power plants, Retherford said.
She noted that EPA’s proposed designations are based on air quality modeling because. There is only one actual state-operated air quality monitor in the region, located on Evansville’s North Side.
“We are in discussions with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to alleviate some of EPA’s concerns,” Retherford said.
Such a measure could include tightening restrictions on sulfur dioxide emissions in A.B. Brown’s air quality permit, she said.
Indiana has until February 2017 to respond with a plan to address the problem, said Ricky Junquera, a spokesman for the Sierra Club. The environmental group was involved in a lawsuit that in 2015 forced the EPA to begin making attainment designations for the sulfur dioxide standard — which had been updated in 2010.
The EPA was required to make its designations for attainment of the standard in three rounds. The attainment designations including Indiana are to be finalized by this July.
In June 2010, the EPA issued a revised primary air quality standard for sulfur dioxide and revoked the previous standards. The action set a new one-hour standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) for sulfur dioxide. Designations are based on a three-year average.
The federal government has been setting standards for sulfur dioxide pollution since 1971.
Exposures to sulfur dioxide for levels as short as five minutes to 24 hours have been linked to adverse respiratory effects and increased asthma symptoms, according to the EPA. Studies also have connected short-term sulfur dioxide exposure to increased visits to emergency departments and hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses, especially among children, the elderly and asthmatics.
It can also contribute to the formation of fine particle pollution, which can penetrate deeply into the lungs and cause or worsen respiratory disease, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and aggravate existing heart disease, leading to increased hospital admissions and premature death, according to the EPA.
The EPA also is proposing that Gibson and LaPorte counties, as well as an area around Rockport, Indiana, in Spencer County be considered in attainment even though it considers them “unclassifiable.”