EPA says state must re-evaluate power plant

State regulators must take another look at the permit they granted for a new unit at a coal-fired power plant near Maysville that began operating last spring, the federal Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.

The permit granted to East Kentucky Power Cooperative's Spurlock No. 4 unit lacks the hazardous air pollution emission limits required by the Clean Air Act, the agency said.

The Sierra Club, which had complained to the EPA, said the action shows that the Kentucky Division for Air Quality failed to require that the plant use the best available pollution controls.

"In Kentucky, Division of Air has been rubber stamping these permits, before even taking a hard look to see how they affect public health and surrounding communities," James Gignac, the Midwest director of the club's Beyond Coal campaign, said in a statement.

But Sean Alteri, assistant director for the air quality division, said his agency was following regulations then in place when it granted the permit in 2006. The courts have since thrown out the regulation, called the Clean Air Mercury Rule.

The Sierra Club originally said the EPA action would put the power plant "on hold," then corrected that.

Alteri and a spokesman for East Kentucky Power said that won't happen.

"They do have controls to reduce hazardous air pollutants," Alteri said. "Whether that is deemed sufficient or not, we'll have to go through that evaluation."

The EPA order said the state must come up with emission limits within 90 days or devise with a schedule to set the limits. If necessary, the state must also come up with a schedule for East Kentucky Power to meet the new limits.

Nick Comer, a spokesman for the utility, said the new evaluation ordered by the EPA might show that the plant does not meet the threshold where changes would be needed.