KU will spend $57 million to upgrade Ghent plant as part of EPA settlement

ssloan@herald-leader.comJanuary 2, 2013 

KU's Ghent plant will see roughly $712 million in improvements as part of an approved settlement for environmental projects.

PHOTO COURTESY KENTUCKY UTILITIES — Photo courtesy Kentucky Utilities

Kentucky Utilities will spend $57 million to upgrade its coal-fired Ghent Station power plant as part of a settlement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA announced the settlement Wednesday, noting that KU will also pay a $300,000 civil penalty over issues related to sulfuric acid mist emissions at the plant.

As part of the settlement, KU will install a control system as well as "adhere to more stringent and permanent emission limits," according to a statement by the EPA.

The control system to be installed will reduce sulfuric acid mist emissions by more than two-thirds, according to the EPA.

"Reducing emissions of this pollutant is vital to protect the local environment and health of the residents of this community," Gwendolyn Keyes-Fleming, regional administrator for the EPA Southeast Office, said in a statement.

The issue dates to notices of violation that were issued by the EPA in 2007 and 2009 against the plant, according to the consent decree filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington.

As part of the settlement, KU continues to deny the allegations, according to the consent decree.

KU spokesman Cliff Feltham said the company is evaluating whether it will seek permission from the state Public Service Commission to pass along the cost of the upgrades at Ghent to ratepayers.

The Ghent plant, which is north of Ghent along the Ohio River, is already set to receive a number of environmental upgrades as part of an overhaul KU and affiliated company Louisville Gas and Electric are performing at their plants to comply with more strict environmental regulations in the coming years. KU previously announced plans to spend more than $700 million at the plant, which opened in 1973, to help capture more particulate matter and mercury, as well as reduce emissions of nitrous oxide.

As part of the settlement with the EPA, KU has also agreed to spend $500,000 on a project that will include replacing a coal-fired boiler at an elementary school in its service area with a geothermal heating system. Feltham said the company has not yet chosen the school.

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz

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