WALLINGFORD—The operator of the Alfred L. Pierce Generating Station on East Street is looking to renew its emissions permit with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Facilities that have the potential to release emissions greater than the threshold set by the Federal Clean Air Act are required to obtain a Title V air operating permit, according to Valerie Galo, air pollution control engineer for DEEP. The permit must be renewed every five years. The co-op last received a permit for the facility on April 23, 2010. That permit expires next April. Earlier this month, the co-op gave notice that it would be pursuing a renewal.
When the energy production facility at 195 East St. became operational in 2010, an emissions analysis was performed, said Thomas Solinksky of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative, which operates the plant. That analysis found that if the facility operated daily, it would surpass air pollution thresholds, he said.
“We don’t run that much, but we did hit those limits,” said Solinsky, who is handling the permit renewal process for the cooperative.
The generating station is a peaking plant that only runs about 150 hours per year, Solinksky said. Electricity is used most often in the morning or evening. Sometimes, the need for electricity is so great that primary energy producers can’t handle the load. The peaking plant is like a reserve unit that is called into action when other producers shut down.
Solinksky said that while the plant is only used periodically, it is staffed daily. It takes about 30 minutes for the plant to ramp up operations when called into action, he said, adding that there is a minimum run time of one-hour.
To produce energy, the facility uses two fuels—natural gas and ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. If gas is available, the facility does not operate on diesel fuel, Solinksky said. While the gas burns relatively clean, the diesel fuel emits nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide. Both are greenhouse gases. Nitrous oxide is a producer of smog, while sulfur dioxide creates acid rain, Solinksky said. While the company releases other particulate matter, the two gases are the most harmful, he said.
Power generating facilities are often subject to the EPA’s acid rain program, which aims to reduce nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions, Galo said.
There are 73 facilities throughout the state that require Title V air permits. Six facilities are located in Wallingford, according to a DEEP database: Allnex USA, Inc., Ametek Specialty Metals, Covanta Energy, Evonik Cyro, Wallingford Energy and CMEEC’s generating station.
Once the state reviews the co-op’s renewal application, the agency will draft a permit and publish a public notice, after which there is a 30-day window to submit public comment to the agency, Galo said. Then the EPA reviews the permit, after which there is a 45-day public comment window, she said. After all comments are gathered, DEEP decides if a public hearing or information session should be held in the affected municipality.
An informational meeting hosted by DEEP was held in October 2012 for Covanta. Last December, DEEP held a public hearing at Town Hall for Covanta’s Title V permit renewal.
Regarding the generating plant, “we will reevaluate the facility to see if they added or removed any equipment,” Galo said.