American Electric Power, the US EPA and the Ohio OEPA have agreed on the comprehensive testing, monitoring and reporting schedule AEP will employ to evaluate the effectiveness of its programme to reduce sulphur aerosol emissions from the Gavin power plant in SE Ohio.

Gavin is a two-unit, 2 600 MW power plant. AEP is the USA’s largest electricity generator (42 000 MW, mainly in the USA), with a large portfolio of fossil fuel plants. Although by no means the worst, it ranks in the top half of emissions producers as measured by pollution per kWh.

The voluntary co-operative agreement provides for extensive monitoring of ambient air quality and frequent testing of stack emissions at Gavin during the operation of the Unit 2 SCR beginning in June and continuing through the summer. Dale Heydlauff, AEP´s senior vice president of environmental affairs, has confirmed that the recently announced acquisition of land in the local community of Cheshire will not affect the company´s decision to move forward with the planned mitigation programme. He also emphasised that at no time during the plant´s operation did measured air quality exceed any health-based standards or permissible exposure limits established by federal or state regulations. In fact, emission levels were well below these limits.

To insure its position against future health damage claims AEP has bought out the entire village of Cheshire, a hamlet of 90 homes, a garage and a church situated close to the Gavin plant. Property owners, who had been compaining about pollution of the town by gases pouring out of Gavin and threatening to take action, have been paid up to three times the value of their homes in return for signing an undertaking never to sue the company over any health problems. AEP plans to use the property to enhance the operations at the Gavin plant. It paid $20 million to buy the village, but the figure should be set against AEP’s size – it has annual revenues of $61 billion – and the likely cost of a losing legal action dragging on for years.

The company and the agencies developed the agreement to address changes in the exhaust plume from the plant’s two 830-foot-high stacks. The same mechanism used in the SCR systems to reduce nitrogen oxides produced a small increase in the level of sulphur trioxide (SO3), which can appear as a bluish haze under certain weather conditions. AEP is to install three separate injection systems, at a cost of $7 million, on Gavin’s unit 2.