New York seeks to force Indiana, other ‘upwind’ states to upgrade pollution technology

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The state of New York is blaming 49 industrial sites in Indiana—and hundreds of other sites across the Midwest—for letting their pollution drift into New York and causing it to miss ozone air-pollution requirements.

New York alleges that 343 “upwind” sites are partially responsible for its non-attainment status and should be ordered to install additional ozone-mitigation technology.

Most of the sites are power plants, pipelines, compressor stations and other manufacturing facilities in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

In Marion County, those industrial sites include Indianapolis Power & Light Co.’s Harding Street power-generating station, Citizens Energy Group’s thermal power plant downtown, Covanta’s recycling plant on the south side and the Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line’s compressor station near 96th Street and Zionsville Road.

But some of those site have already converted to cleaner technology in recent years, raising questions about whether New York is using current information.

Citizens Energy Group, for example, switched the primary power source for its Perry K Steam Plant downtown from coal to natural gas in 2014, resulting in less pollution.

“Natural gas very significantly decreases all the elements that contribute to ground-level ozone,” said Citizens spokesman Dan Considine.

The plant, on Kentucky Avenue near Victory Field, supplies steam to about 250 large business and industrial customers downtown, including IUPUI and Lucas Oil Stadium. In warmer weather, the steam turns water chillers that cool the buildings.

And IPL’s Harding Street station converted from coal to natural gas in 2016.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is fighting back, saying the industrial sites are not responsible for New York’s air quality and shouldn’t have to pay to fix it. The chamber is warning that the petition, if approved, would jeopardize thousands of jobs.

“If the EPA were to grant New York’s request, the sources identified in the petition must cease operations within three months unless they comply with emission controls and compliance schedules imposed by the EPA,” the chamber said in a statement.

New York is using a little-known provision of the Clean Air Act known as Section 126, which allows one state to petition the EPA to force another state to fix violations.

Other Indiana sites named in the petition include Purdue University’s Wade Utility Plant, Duke Energy’s power plant in Edwardsport, U.S. Steel’s Gary Works and the Indiana Harbor Coke Co.

New York filed its petition in March and the U.S. Chamber responded in a statement in September.

“If you live, work or depend upon the local economy in nine ‘upwind’ states…New York is seeking to shrink your slice of the economic pie,” the chamber wrote.

In its petition, New York said it used computer modeling to identify where pollution is coming from in nearby, upwind states.

“The high concentrations of ozone that are transported to New York State are largely the result of emissions from major stationary sources of (nitrogen oxide) located out-of-state,” New York’s petition said. “These sources are often characterized by the operation of large boilers and other units that require very tall stacks to emit the exhaust from their combustion processes. Because of the use of these tall stacks and the high temperatures of the exiting gases, enormous volumes of…emissions are sent high into the atmosphere.”

The U.S. Chamber called New York’s computer modeling “antiquated, outdated and secretive.”

“We believe that New York has failed to present a compelling case, making it much easier for the EPA to reject the unprecedented relief it seeks,” the chamber said.

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