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Duke seeks to extend operations of dirtiest coal units through 2018

Published Jan. 7, 2014

Duke Energy wants to extend operations of its two oldest coal units — among the dirtiest in the nation — at the Crystal River Power Station an additional two years through mid 2018.

The utility filed a petition with the state Public Service Commission on Dec. 31 that would allow Duke to charge customers for costs associated with the continued operation of the units.

To comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements, Duke wants to use a reformulated type of coal that contains less sulfur, mercury and chlorides.

Reconfiguring Crystal River units 1 and 2 to burn the different coal would cost $307 million less than installing a $1 billion pollution control system.

Current permits for the two coal units allow Duke to operate the plants through 2020, but the utility needs approval from state regulators to recover some operational costs from customers through 2018.

"Extending CR 1 and 2 is the most cost-effective option for Duke Energy Florida to comply with the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards regulation as well as reliably serve the energy needs of our customers," said Sterling Ivey, a Duke spokesman.

"Although the current environmental permits allow for continued operation through the end of 2020, given the new federal regulations, the company now likely will retire CR 1 and 2 by 2018 when a new combined cycle natural gas unit will enter into service," Ivey said.

Duke plans to build a natural gas plant of up to 1,600 megawatts, almost twice as much as the two coal units combined.

Duke is looking not only to replace the coal units but also the broken and shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant.

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332.

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