Kansas City, Mo. — A coal-fired generating plant in eastern Kansas City shows that the country can have an adequate energy supply without hurting the environment, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.
Christie Whitman made the comments while touring the Hawthorn generating station, which was rebuilt with the newest clean-burning technology after being destroyed by an explosion in 1999.
The station, owned by Kansas City Power & Light Co., has reduced the emission of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and other particulates by between 88 percent and 99 percent since it returned to production in June 2001, according to the company.
"This plant shows that clean coal technology is not a dream of the future," Whitman said. "It is here today. It is already providing extraordinary reductions in emissions here."
The plant uses low-sulfur coal, burning an average of 7,000 tons a day at full capacity.
Steve Easley, KCPL's vice president of generation services, said the technology included low-noxious burners and a selective catalytic reduction unit to reduce nitrogen oxide; a dry scrubber for sulfur dioxide; and a pulse-jet bag house, which is 13,000 10-meter bags that eliminate most of the particulates before they are released into the air.
Easley said some of the devices were used in other energy plants but that the Hawthorn plant was the only one using all of them, at permissible emission limits that are lower than anywhere else.
Whitman said opponents of coal-burning utilities are being unrealistic, noting that coal provides nearly 50 percent of the country's energy. Even with alternative energy, that figure will likely still be 25 percent in 20 years, she said.
But Eric Uram, regional representative for the Sierra Club's Midwest office in Madison, Wis., said the utility industry had made strides in creating new pollution-control devices, but said none of the devices reduced all dangerous emissions, such as mercury or carbon dioxide.
"For a more sustainable future, we have to transition to more renewable energy," Uram said.