The Henderson-based generation and transmission co-op estimates it would have to spend about $785 million to meet proposed EPA requirements—about three-fourths of the value of its coal plants. “And that doesn’t include anything for carbon either,” Mark Bailey, Big Rivers president and CEO, said in April, referring to possible limits on carbon dioxide emissions.

Bailey, like officials of other utilities that rely heavily on coal for electric generation, is urging Congress to give them more time to complete the evaluations and changes needed for compliance. Bailey made that case in testimony before the Subcommittee on Energy Power in the House of Representatives. Ideally, he would like to have a five-year window of compliance. Complying with the EPA’s proposed Clean Air Transport Rule and air toxics regulations would be “very difficult” in a constricted time frame of a year or two, he said. Big Rivers, like other coal burners, also is still waiting for EPA to decide if it is going to regulate coal combustion ash as a hazardous waste. “I’m really worried about the ash, whether it’s classified as hazardous,” he said.

Bailey wants Congress to delay EPA implementation of the proposed rules “until all the rules are promulgated.” Then, “at least we’ll have everything in front of us and have sufficient time to consider our options.” Those options, he added, would include switching. The co-op owns the Green, Wilson, Reid and Coleman baseplant plants, with a combined generating capacity of 1,444 megawatts. Big Rivers also operates the 310-megawatt Station Two coal plant owned by the city of Henderson.