Jim Bridger plant plan denied by EPA

WYOMING – The fate of Jim Bridger Power Plant took another turn earlier this week, this one unfavorable towards jobs and Wyoming’s economy.

On Dec. 27, Gov. Mark Gordon signed a temporary emergency suspension order that allowed Unit 2 of the plant to continue operating for at least four months. On Wednesday the Environmental Protection Agency announced it disapproved Gordon’s revised regional haze state implementation plan.

“While not completely unexpected, EPA’s decision to disapprove the revised state implementation plan is a disappointing reflection of a federal agency acting in bad faith,” Gov. Gordon released in a statement. “EPA’s backtracking and subsequent refusal to adopt an agreement previously approved by the regional office and EPA headquarters could impact the loyal workforce of the Jim Bridger Power Plant and coal mine.”

Gordon said he remains committed to protecting jobs and workers at the power plant and mine.

It was known Jim Bridger Power Plant would be operating outside of late last year once the federal regulations increased on Dec. 31. That prompted Gordon to sign the emergency suspension, which expires at the end of April.

According to a report from the Casper Star-Tribune, units 1 and 2 of Jim Bridger Power Plant are scheduled to be converted to natural gas peaking facilities in 2024. Operating utility company Rocky Mountain Power said it was not economical to install costly pollution control measures for the final years of the units’ operations. It’s noted those pollution control measures are installed in units 3 and 4 at the plant.

Alternatives for units 1 and 2 were pitched in 2019 which would reduce NOx emissions without installing pollution controls. The EPA was receptive to that plan during the Trump administration but failed to finalize a deal. The EPA under President Joe Biden reviewed the proposals and informed Wyoming last summer it would neither approve nor deny the plan.

While aware of the situation years in advance, the situation drug out to eventually force Gordon to sign the temporary four-month extension. This week, Gordon was joined by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso in outrage over the EPA’s decision.

“The Biden administration’s war on American energy knows no bounds,” Sen. Barrasso said in a statement. “The proposal to disapprove the State of Wyoming’s revised regional haze plan is not driven by sound science or sensible policy. It is pure political theater that puts the future of Wyoming’s energy workers at risk.”

Barrasso also pointed at the previous agreement with the EPA that was not finalized as evidence of the current administration’s antipathy towards the country’s energy sector.

“The administration’s dismissal of a carefully negotiated plan that the EPA once supported will kill good jobs in Wyoming,” Barrasso’s statement read. “It will also further strain our electric grid and drive up energy costs for families at a time when they can least afford it.”

Gordon previously threatened to sue EPA if Wyoming’s plan was not approved. As of Roundup deadlines, no suit was filed in federal court.

Gordon has not announced any contingency plans for when his temporary extension order expires in less than four months.