The companies involved in supplying heat to most of the buildings in downtown St. Paul by burning wood waste have paid $55,000 to resolve alleged violations of their air quality permit, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced Friday.
District Energy St. Paul and its subsidiaries Ever-Green Energy LLC, St. Paul Cogeneration LLC and Environmental Wood Supply LLC have paid the penalty for allegedly exceeding limits on carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides from St. Paul Cogeneration's wood-fired boiler. The plant heats 80 percent of the buildings in downtown St. Paul and sells electricity to Xcel Energy.
The MPCA also said emissions monitoring was inadequate and said procedures weren't followed to amend the companies' permit when Environmental Wood Supply was added to the operation.
In a statement included in the agreement with the MPCA, the companies said all four companies are separate entities and shouldn't be considered a combined facility under the air quality permit. But they agreed that emissions from Environmental Wood Supply LLC would be included in the permit for the St. Paul Cogeneration facility to resolve the alleged violations.
Nina Axelson, a spokeswoman for the companies, said the MPCA considered Environmental Wood Supply under the same permit despite the fact that it's located a few miles away. She said the emissions violations were related to difficulty in keeping track of the renewable fuel's moisture content.
The St. Paul Cogeration Plant once burned mostly coal for heat and electricity. About 10 years ago, the companies made plans to switch to wood waste, attracting the attention of President George W. Bush, who toured the plant in 2001. The "greener" energy service using wood waste began in 2003, and wood generates 80 to 90 percent of the plant's combined heat and power today, Axelson said. The plant still uses natural gas, coal and oil as a backup, she said.
Besides paying the fine, the companies have agreed to take corrective actions to ensure compliance with emissions regulations. Axelson said the plant has better monitoring systems that more accurately measure moisture in the wood.
"Over the years we've gotten better and better at that," she said. "We're now in compliance."
MPCA spokesman Ralph Pribble said the companies have already carried out most of the actions required in the agreement.