Cleaner power plant looks to future

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— The newly retrofitted Hayden Station should have pollution emissions decreased by 21,000 tons in the year 2000 -- a number that gives many Yampa Valley residents reason to breathe a sigh of relief.

"Everything is functioning as of the limits in the consent decree," plant director Frank Roitsch said. "It's obvious that the air is cleaner. We're very pleased with the results of the project. The retrofit allowed us to continue to burn coal, which is very important to our community."

When a Sierra Club lawsuit against the power plant was finalized, plant owners had considered the possibility of changing the primary energy source to natural gas, but in the end, decided to stick with coal.

Hayden Station's ability to "clean burn" coal came into play recently when the company renegotiated its contract with Seneca Coal Co. Seneca will provide coal to the power plant through 2011, keeping 90 Seneca coal miners employed.

"All avenues were considered before the suit was finalized. We wanted to continue to burn coal for many reasons. Because so many jobs in the valley rely on it, it was important to us," Roitsch said. "This plant provides jobs in numerous areas in the valley, from electricity jobs, to coal jobs, vendors and product providers."

Although the entire retrofit project wasn't slated for completion until Dec. 31, 1999, project coordinators finished the massive undertaking in October and under the $130 million budget.

"We came in slightly under budget and had phases of the project completed months before the deadline," Roitsch said. "We're very pleased with the results."

Contractors Black and Veatch from Kansas City, Mo., headed the retrofit project that began in December 1998.

"We brought on about 480 people in addition to our regular staff," Roitsch said. "We had two groups working on the project, a local group and a group of traveling workers who go from job to job. The travelers are gone now; they have moved on to other communities and other big construction jobs. We were glad that we could provide good paying opportunities to local workers while the project was taking place."

The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the owners of the Hayden plant -- Public Service Co. of Colorado, PacificCorp. and the Salt River Power District -- in August 1993, alleging that the power plant had violated the federal Clean Air Act thousands of times during a five-year period from 1988 to 1993. Concerns from the local Trapper's Lake chapter of the Sierra Club about visibility and pollution in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area northeast of Steamboat prompted the lawsuit.

In July 1995, a judge ruled the power plant owners were liable for more than 19,000 pollution violations.

The installation of three pollution-control devices on two units at the plant was necessary to cut down on pollution emissions.

Bag houses were installed to diminish particulate emissions and reduce excessive opacity readings. Dry scrubbing systems were put in place to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 82 to 90 percent. Special burners also were installed to decrease the nitrogen oxide releases at the plant by an estimated 40 to 50 percent.

In addition to reducing pollution, the plant owners were ordered to pay $2 million in civil penalties.

Hayden Station employs 107 people and provides electricity to the Yampa Valley Electric Association which services Steamboat, Hayden and Craig. Total power generated from the plant is divided into thirds with PacificCorp. and the Salt River Power District drawing a portion of power from the plant as well.


-- To reach Bryna Larsen call 871-4205 or e-mail blarsen@amigo.net

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