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Clean air victory in Colorado

  The operators of the polluting, coal-fired Hayden Power Plant in northwestern Colorado have agreed to reform. The pressure began in 1995, when the Sierra Club won a lawsuit holding the plant accountable for more than 17,000 clean air violations (HCN, 11/27/95). The EPA followed this year with a notice of 10,234 additional violations.


Rather than fight - and probably lose - in court, the plant's three operators, led by Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo), chose to negotiate. The result is a draft consent decree reached May 22 that has activists beaming. "We're wildly excited," said Joan Hoffman, local Sierra Club representative.


The draft decree, which needs court approval after a public comment period, involves big money. The operators must pay $2 million in penalties to the U.S. Treasury. An equivalent amount will be spent more creatively: to convert cars and homes in the Yampa Valley to natural gas, and to establish a local land trust fund.


Finally, the utilities have pledged more than $130 million to modernize the plant's meager emission controls. Environmentalists have long blamed the Hayden station for haze and acid snow in the nearby Mt. Zirkel Wilderness. As stipulated by the consent decree, the power plant's output of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides will be cut by up to 82 and 50 percent respectively. Particulates will be nearly eliminated using new fabric filters. PSCo and its partners have until 1999 to implement the redesign plan.


* Jared Farmer