Mark Gordon signs order allowing power plant to continue operations, citing dispute with EPA

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Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon on Monday signed an emergency order that allows part of a coal-fired power station in Sweetwater County to continue operations, a move he says is necessary because of a deal that was allegedly “abandoned” by the federal government.

Unit 2 of the Jim Bridger Power Plant, which PacifiCorp operates, was slated to close New Year’s Day, but the governor’s order will allow the unit to remain open “for at least 4 months.” The unit is scheduled to convert to natural gas starting in 2023.

In a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, Gordon said his order is necessary because of the agency’s “failure to act” on a revised State Implementation Plan (SIP) that was submitted by the state.

The governor’s office alleges the revised SIP was approved in 2020 to allow the unit to continue operating while still meeting regional haze guidelines, but the EPA later “reversed course and refused to honor the prior approval.”

That leaves in place the original SIP, which the governor called “costly and outdated.”

“I cannot let DC’s failure put Wyoming folks out of work and lead to a loss of energy availability for Wyoming consumers from a coal fired unit,” Gordon said in a statement. “We had a deal. PacifiCorp, EPA and Wyoming all agreed in 2020 that the regional haze guidelines would not only be met, but exceeded with the revised SIP.”

“Now, with that deal unilaterally abandoned by EPA, this emergency order is necessary to protect Wyoming workers from EPA’s recklessness,” the governor added.

Gordon’s office acknowledged that while the temporary suspension order can be “disapproved” by Regan, his administration “believes the suspension meets all the legal requirements of the Clean Air Act” and should stay in effect.

Gordon also sent a letter to Regan last month warning that the state could sue over the dispute, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

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