As approved by the Public Service Commission, LG&E will spend $1.4 billion and KU about $896 million on environmental upgrades mainly at the 2,225-mw Ghent and 1,717-mw Mill Creek plants. Retrofits also are planned for an older, 547-mw unit at the Trimble County plant, where a new 750-mw coal unit went into commercial operation in early 2011.

LG&E and KU, the largest electric utilities in the Commonwealth, were purchased in 2011 from Germany’s E.ON AG by PPL Corp. of Pennsylvania.

The PSC endorsed a September settlement between the utilities and several intervenors, including Attorney General Jack Conway, the Kentucky Industrial Utility Customers, the Metropolitan Housing Coalition of Louisville, Kroger Co., U.S. Department of Defense, and two national environmental groups—Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

As part of that deal, LG&E and KU agreed to defer at least until July 1, 2013, filing an application with the PSC for a $225 million project to install fabric-filter “baghouse” systems to capture particulates and mercury emissions at units 1 and 2 at the 1,720-mw E.W. Brown coal plant. Sierra Club attorney Kristin Henry said the group hopes the utilities will decide to permanently forego any retrofit of Brown, although LG&E spokeswoman Chris Whelan said that is not necessarily the case. “We are only delaying the improvements on Brown until we get a cleaner view of the national air quality standards,” she said.

Among the planned improvements: LG&E intends to modernize the scrubber system on all Mill Creek units and Trimble County unit 1. KU, meanwhile, will install baghouse systems at Ghent and at Brown unit 3. At Brown, the existing coal ash landfill also will be converted to a dry storage landfill.

In addition to adding new environmental controls, the utilities are planning to retire LG&E’s 563-megawatt Cane Run plant and KU’s 163-megawatt Green River and 75-megawatt Tyrone plants over the next few years. All are older coal-fired generating stations.