Wyandotte County settles air pollution dispute

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Wyandotte County officials have reached a settlement with the Sierra Club over allegations of excessive air pollution from two area power plants.

The agreement, which the Board of Public Utilities and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County approved Thursday, requires that the BPU's Quindaro Power Plant stop burning coal by April 16, 2015, and that the Nearman Power Plant add controls to meet negotiated emissions limit for air emissions by Sept. 1, 2017. The Quindaro plant will be converted to natural gas.

The Sierra Club notified BPU in 2012 that it intended to file a lawsuit over what the conservation organization said were more than 9,000 air pollution violations at the Quindaro and Nearman power plants. The settlement addresses those concerns, the Sierra Club said in a release.

The agreement, which requires approval from a federal judge before becoming final, also requires the county to spend $750,000 on energy efficiency projects, including developing a community group to promote energy efficiency among BPU customers.

"Phasing out coal in Kansas City will mean cleaner air for a community that has fought for years for this outcome," said Holly Bressett, deputy director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "Efficiency programs will empower local neighborhoods to use less energy in homes and businesses, leaving dependence on old, polluting coal plants in the past."

The Board of Public Utilities and Wyandotte County disputed the allegations that air pollution from the two coal-fired plants exceeded limits. The BPU, a publicly owned utility, serves about 63,000 electric customers.

"We believe that the Nearman and Quindaro Power Plants are operated in compliance with the law," Don Gray, BPU general manager, said in a release. "Unfortunately, interpretations of the law differ in this instance.  We were able to resolve differences with a settlement that is beneficial to both parties and, most importantly, that is beneficial to BPU customers."

The settlement also requires the county to spend $750,000 on energy efficient projects, including developing a community group to promote energy efficiency for BPU customers.

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