A final settlement was signed by the EPA April 20 in a lawsuit brought by the Missouri Basin Power Project (MBPP) and the State of Wyoming against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX) from MBPP's Laramie River Station in Wheatland, Wyo. Settlement of the case was announced in December 2016.

MBPP is owned by six regional consumer-owned electric utilities including the Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (WMMPA), which is represented in the project by Missouri River Energy Services (MRES), headquartered in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead joined MBPP in the lawsuit and signed the settlement Dec. 22, 2016. It was then sent to EPA, which forwarded it to the office of the Federal Register. Following a public notice and comment period, EPA signed the agreement.

The lawsuit was initiated after EPA approved the majority of Wyoming's Regional Haze Plan, but rejected a portion related to limiting NOX, which contributes to regional haze. The state had approved the NOX emissions limits achieved by the use of over-fire air and low-NOX burners, which had been installed at the Laramie River Station, and the addition of Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction (SNCR) on all three units. EPA said SNCRs were not sufficient and that Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) would be required on all three of the plant's units.

It is estimated that the cost of installing SCR technology is more than 10 times higher than the cost of installing SNCR technology on a single power plant unit and the improvement in visibility is so slight that it cannot be discerned by the human eye. The current estimate of costs to WMMPA is approximately $45 million.

Under the terms of the settlement, MBPP is required to install SCR on Unit 1 of the Laramie River Station by May 2019 and to have it operational by July 1, 2019; and to install SNCR on Units 2 and 3 by December 2018. The settlement also requires lower emission rates of sulfur dioxide emissions from the power plant.

"This settlement will have the dual outcome of improving the environment and of making sure that our principal power generating resource, the Laramie River Station, can continue to operate at full strength for many years to come," said MRES CEO Tom Heller. It also means that the 330 Laramie River Station employees will be able to continue their work. In addition, more than 200 jobs will be created during the plant upgrade.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck, N.D., the project manager for MBPP and the operator of the coal-fired Laramie River Station, negotiated the settlement on behalf of MBPP. In addition to WMMPA/MRES and Basin Electric, other MBPP participants are Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, Denver; Lincoln Electric System, Lincoln, Neb.; Heartland Consumers Power District, Madison, S.D.; and Wyoming Municipal Power Agency, Lusk, Wyo.