The utility says its improvements to two Twin Cities power plants are not being recognized by federal officials.
Xcel Energy Inc. says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency isn't giving it credit for helping to reduce air pollution in the Twin Cities.
The Minneapolis-based utility on Friday filed a petition with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., asking the EPA to reconsider how it calculates Xcel's future emission reductions under Clean Air Act rules issued in July.
Xcel says that the EPA failed to give credit for converting the High Bridge power plant in St. Paul and the Riverside plant in Minneapolis from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas in 2008 and 2009. As a result, Xcel could end up slightly out of compliance with the EPA's new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which aims to significantly reduce air pollution in 27 eastern states from levels of the mid-2000s.
Although converting the two the power plants cut smog-producing emissions by tens of thousands of tons annually, the EPA's counting method under the rule "actually punishes the company for early reductions," the petition said.
The problem, Xcel said, is that state pollution control officials assigned new administrative numbers to the plants when they switched to natural gas. EPA's counting method ignores the change in administrative numbers and treats the plants as if they never burned coal, the petition said.
"The rule must be changed to allow our customers to realize the benefit of the early actions we took on their behalf," said Judy Poferl, president and CEO of Xcel's regional electric service, still called Northern States Power Co.
If the EPA sticks to its counting method, Xcel will be slightly out of compliance for air emissions, said Mike Bull, manager of environmental policy for the utility.
Several states and some other companies also have challenged the rule on various grounds. Friday was the deadline to file.
In a statement, the EPA said it will review the Xcel petition and respond accordingly, but is confident in the legal and technical basis of the rule.
"The agency is working with states and utilities to ensure the smoothest possible implementation of this rule, which will protect the 240 million Americans living in the eastern, southern and midwestern states," the agency said.
David Shaffer • 612-673-7090