NIPSCO has begun operation of the first "scrubber" installed at the R.M. Schahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield, the first of $739 million in pollution control projects underway at electric generating stations.
The utility on Tuesday hailed the operation of the scrubber, which removes certain pollutants from smokestack emissions, as a milestone in the company's drive to clean up and diversify its electric generating capacity.
“Improving air quality is important, and we have made substantial progress in recent years by diversifying our supply mix and investing in other environmental improvements,” said Mike Finissi, chief operating officer for NIPSCO. “We worked diligently to ensure that we completed the project safely, on time and in the most cost-effective way for our customers.”
A second scrubber at Schahfer Generating Station is slated for completion in fall 2014. The utility expects to complete another scrubber project – at the Michigan City Generating Station – in 2016.
When those projects are completed, NIPSCO will have among the cleanest coal-fired electric generating stations in the state. NIPSCO expects to achieve an 80 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions upon completion. With the installation of other environmental controls, the utility expects to achieve a 35 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions.
Both nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide pollution have been associated with a variety of respiratory diseases, according to information compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Schahfer project, which began in 2011, required more than 1.7 million hours of work and employed more than 800 local craft laborers, according to NIPSCO.
The project followed approval by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and a 2011 settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Indiana under the Clean Air Act.