(CN) - A power company may intervene in an environmentalist suit against the EPA, which seeks to impose emission-control technology at the largest coal-fired power plant in Minnesota, the 8th Circuit ruled.
Six environmental groups led by the National Parks Conservation Association sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2012 an effort to compel the agency to impose emission-control technology on a Minnesota coal-fired power plant operated by Northern States Power Company (NSP), d/b/a Xcel Energy, in Sherburne County.
The plant is the largest power plant in the state, and uses up to 30,000 tons of coal per day.
In 2009, the Department of the Interior affirmed that haze at two national parks - Michigan's Isle Royale National Park and Minnesota's Voyageurs National Park - was reasonably attributable to pollution coming from NSP's plant.
Voyageurs National Park is over 250 miles away from the plant, and Isle Royale is over 300 miles away.
Nevertheless, the EPA decided not to act immediately, but to provide time for additional public comment on the issue.
The environmental groups argue that the Department of Interior's certification triggered a mandatory duty for the EPA to require NSP to install pollution reducing technology. The only remaining question is what technology to impose on NSP.
The 8th Circuit permitted NSP to intervene in the litigation on Wednesday.
"NSP estimates that the technology the Environmental Groups seek to impose on it could cost NSP and its customers more than $280 million. Risk of direct financial harm establishes injury in fact," U.S. U.S. Circuit Judge Bobby Shepard said, writing for the three-judge panel.
NSP's property interests are involved in the environmental group's suit, as well as its direct financial interest.
Further, the power plant's interests are not adequately represented by the EPA.
"Here, NSP's interests in its Sherco facility diverge from the EPA's general interests in assuring that the proper regulatory procedures are followed," Shepard said. "NSP owns the target power plant; it 'is seeking to protect a more narrow and 'parochial' financial interest not shared by [the general public].'"
NSP plans to argue that the EPA must re-determine that the plant is a source causing visibility impairment at the two parks, before it can order it to install new technology.