Environmentalist outlines air quality issues


Regional haze, carbon control and mercury management are the three emerging air quality issues affecting western Colorado power plants, an environmental analyst said Thursday night.

Gary Magno, a principal environmental analyst for Xcel Energy, gave a presentation Thursday to the Northwest Colorado Energy Producers Association during its quarterly meeting at The Ore House at the Pine Grove in Steamboat Springs.

Utility boilers, agricultural operations, mining and prescribed burnings, among other factors, help cause regional haze, or visible pollution, Magno said.

He said efforts are under way to improve visibility by national parks, and to completely restore visibility to natural conditions by 2064.

Programs are also being put into place, Magno said, to begin reducing mercury emissions. This will be accomplished, in part, through the Clean Air Mercury Rule, which establishes a cap for mercury emissions.

Mercury is released through the burning of coal. Magno said 1 percent of all mercury emissions comes from U.S. power plants, and another 2 percent comes from sources such as incinerators, mining and non-utility use of coal.

The majority of mercury emissions stem from foreign countries, he said, listing China and its emerging economy as one of the largest producers of the emissions.

"Just remember, it's a global problem," Magno said. With the United States leading the charge to lessen the emissions, it's possible other foreign countries will jump on board.

The third issue facing air quality lies with carbon control. Magno said companies such as Xcel have committed money to researching carbon capture technology, controls and monitoring systems.

Xcel Energy is one of the country's largest providers of natural gas and electricity. It is the state's largest provider, serving about 75 percent of its homes, and has more than 5 million customers in eight states.

The next energy producers association meeting is Dec. 7 in Craig.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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