Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission began construction of Highwood Generating Station east of Great Falls before its air permit became final, a violation that could carry financial penalties, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality.
SME disagrees with the alleged violation.
“We’ve tried to work with the DEQ all along,” SME CEO Tim Gregori said.
A federal rule requires developers building coal-fired power plants to use so-called “maxi-mum available control technology” if they are major emitters of hazardous pollutants.
Under its modified air permit, Highwood won’t be a major emitter of hazardous pollutants, emitting less than 25 tons.
However, that permit is not yet final and construction can’t commence until it is, according to the DEQ, which notified SME of the alleged violation in a letter sent Thursday.
DEQ issued the permit to SME Nov. 10. The permit becomes final Nov 12. SME broke ground on the coal-fired power plant last month.
“The department may initiate a formal enforcement action, and the violation documented in this letter may be used to establish a history or pattern of violations,” the department said.
The DEQ did not request that construction be halted. Gregori said SME attorneys were re-viewing the department’s letter and deciding how to proceed.
SME said delays by department staff in issuing the permit contributed to the problem. The company is up against a Nov. 30 construction deadline or the permit becomes invalid.
*source – Great Falls Tribune – Great Falls,MT,USA