PIGGOTT, AR (KAIT) - For many years Piggott generated it's own electricity. Now the huge diesel generators run only once a month or so. New EPA regulations are causing concern for small town power companies.
Piggott is one of the very few towns in Arkansas that can generate enough electricity to supply the city.
Mayor Gerald Morris and I stood next to the huge Fairbanks - Morse diesel engines.
"Of course we're not generating right now as long as we have power coming in from outside sources, it's cheaper than generating our own power."
Piggott has 5 generators which can generate 74 Hundred Kilowatts when all are running at peak. That doesn't happen very often.
"This power plant now is primarily for emergencies."
Actually at peak heat or peak cold the plant couldn't supply all the power needed for Piggott . Currently Piggott shares it's power in a group called ARKMO which involves Jonesboro, Paragould, Malden and Poplar Bluff. Those towns also have generating capabilities like Piggott.
But supply and demand isn't really the issue here. It's air quality.
Power Plant Superintendent David Finley and Operator Randy Bessserman cranked up the smallest generator to show me how it all works.
Running a huge diesel engine requires large exhaust systems. New Federal rules for stationary engines are requiring Catalytic converters. Expensive Catalytic converters.
Generators that are mounted on trailers or fixed locations like hospitals are exempt from the new regulations. The new regulations also are not just for diesel engines but any kind of large compression engines.
Morris says these modifications don't come cheap. "They could cost anywhere from 45 Thousand to 150 Thousand depending on the size of the generator." Piggott's generators run anywhere from 960 horses to over 3 Thousand horses.
They could avoid that expense if the generators were kept to emergency purposes only. No revenue operations at all.
Morris, "If we get an approval to operate under emergency clauses. We can only recoup to a break even point."
In other words they could only generate long enough to make fuel costs back. No profits from the sale of electricity to the grid for other communities. For instance during last years ice storm the generators operated 24/7 for about 17 days.
"If we had to generate like that and give the power away so to speak at a break-even point. It would be difficult for us financially."
The current regulation says they have to have the catalytic converters on the engines by 2013 but the Mayor says for sure that remains to be seen.
Morris says it seems to him that the regulations are aimed at big generators of power.
"It doesn't seem quite fair they don't consider the few small operations like ours for an example."
Morris says the city has started to set money aside for 1 converter. They will do others as funds become available.