Here’s a revised version of the other Inside Washington article:

Date: February 9, 2007 –

Environmental groups are split over their stance on power plants that use advanced coal technologies with local environmental groups accusing national groups of supporting integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology because they recently received grant money to do so. However, the national groups vigorously deny those accusations.

National groups including the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) last year received first-time grant money from the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation to support clean coal technology with carbon sequestration. The grants marked a shift from traditional money available to environmental groups, which is generally used for litigation and education efforts. That is setting the stage for a potential ideological divide among traditionally aligned environmental organizations, with local groups that oppose all new coal-fired generation levying accusations at the groups that received the grant money.

But CATF and NRDC strongly defend their positions and say they have not changed since winning the Joyce Foundation grants. CATF supports specific IGCC projects in the Midwest, while NRDC does not address individual plants. It opposes conventional coal plants and promotes advanced coal technology as long as it sequesters carbon dioxide (CO2).

IGCC gasifies the coal before burning it, making it easier to capture conventional pollutants and allowing for the potential CO2 sequestration. But because no full-scale IGCC plants have come online, there is much debate over the efficiency and affordability of the power generated from the plants, and whether sequestration is ultimately possible (see related story).

Smaller, local activist organizations and some sources at Greenpeace — all groups that do not receive the Joyce Foundation funding — complain that the national groups are motivated in part by the grant money.

“They are literally getting paid to promote coal gasification,” charges a member of a local environmental group.

A Joyce Foundation source argues that NRDC and CATF’s positions have not changed due to the grants. The foundation began a $7 million initiative in 2005 to push industry to embrace IGCC technology and awarded $3 million in 2006 to environmental groups to specifically promote clean coal technologies. CATF received $787,500 and NRDC got $437,500.

CATF admits carbon capture and storage still has a long way to go to fill in the technology gaps. “It will take eight to 10 years of serious testing on a large scale, but we won’t get there unless we have the CO2 in order to test the formation,” the CATF source says. The goal is to be able to do large-scale CO2 sequestration — on the scale of up to 100 percent of the CO2 from 50 IGCC plants for 50 years — by 2030. The source says the Illinois valley has the potential for that kind of storage.

CATF is supporting proposals by the ERORA Group to build a 770-megawatt (mw) IGCC facility in Illinois.

In an e-mail to an Illinois environmental activist, CATF touts benefits of the proposed IGCC plant there, saying the plant’s design includes “the technology needed to capture CO2. As carbon capture ready plants go, this one is about as ready as you get. To get full CO2 capture, ‘all’ that is needed is a water shift reaction and some turbine modifications, plus equipment to compress the CO2. I use the term ‘all’ with some hesitation because these items are not cheap,” the CATF e-mail says.

Separately, NRDC is not supporting this or any individual plant. NRDC says it pushes for IGCC because of the limited leverage groups have to address proposed coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act and that IGCC is a critical component of their overall legal strategy because it is currently the cleanest way to burn coal to produce electricity.

As part of that strategy, NRDC sued EPA last year over a determination that regulators did not need to consider IGCC when conducting best available technology (BACT) reviews for new coal plants. NRDC and EPA recently reached a proposed settlement that would allow — but not require — regulators to consider IGCC as BACT.

The NRDC source notes, “We’re not supporting any particular plant. We’re saying . . . [industry] should use the best available technology.” Additionally, the source notes the group supports a diversified energy mix. “We have never wavered in our support for renewable energy. But at the end of the day, the Clean Air Act offers very little authority to block a plant by arguing a no-build option.”

IGCC supporters also believe that the technology will also eventually allow for the capture and sequestration of CO2, which they consider a necessary step to tackle global warming.

But Greenpeace and the local groups point out that geologic storage of CO2 is a complete unknown. NRDC and CATF “say this is good because we can capture carbon, but the analysis of the cost of sequestration is such that nobody would do it,” says a source with Valley Watch, a Midwest environmental group.

Instead, these groups are urging that new generation be shifted away from coal and that resources be used to develop wind and solar generation as well as to modernize the electricity grid.

But an industry source says the no-coal position is not viable or realistic because coal is safe and abundant. However, the source is also skeptical about IGCC’s viability.

Source: Inside EPA via
Date: February 9, 2007
Issue: Vol. 28, No. 6
© Inside Washington Publishers

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