Air quality violations alleged at Kirkwood: Resort says it is switching out old technology for new |

Air quality violations alleged at Kirkwood: Resort says it is switching out old technology for new

Kirkwood Mountain Resort’s power company, Mountain Utilities, allegedly violated California air quality standards at least five times last year, according to the pollution control district that monitors them.

The resort paid a $29,000 fine to Great Basin Air Pollution Control District in Bishop for violations in 2004. They have not settled on a fine amount for alleged violations in 2005.

The utility was given a notice of violation in December, according to Duane Ono, deputy air pollution control officer at the district. Ono said violations happened “five or six times last year.” But “for the most part, (the resort’s power system) is running well.”

The ski area’s President Tim Cohee said their diesel generator system is “incredibly clean” but sometimes an engine will go off-line from its scrubber, which removes pollutants from the exhaust before it enters the air.

“On a regular day-in, day-out basis, Kirkwood is so far below air quality standards. If there was a problem, it was a problem with the scrubber system,” Cohee said.

The resort notifies the pollution control district when mishaps occur, Cohee and Ono said.

“They are notifying us if there are breakdowns. They are more cognizant of trying to stay under the emission limits,” Ono said. “They’ve been making a lot of progress toward more continued compliance in the future.”

The resort and surrounding community operate off of one new generator and four 30-year-old generators. The air is tested where the emissions exit the generator.

The company allegedly exceeded standards for nitrogen dioxide.

The gas is toxic and may impair lung function and increase respiratory infections in young children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Nitrogen dioxide is capable of damaging cell linings in the respiratory tract, according to the California Air Resources Board. The state standard is .25 parts per million per hour.

“Clinical studies of human subjects suggest that NO2 exposure to levels near the current standard may worsen the effect of allergens in allergic asthmatics, especially in children,” according to its Web site at

Connecting to the power grid is cost prohibitive, Cohee said. But they are looking into other power sources such as fuel cells and wind power. Solar power does not hold a lot of hope there because most of the electricity demand is in the winter time, Cohee said.

“We are in the process of changing out older technology for newer technology,” Cohee said. “Everything in the future will be more efficient and environmentally friendly.”

Kirkwood residents pay just short of 50 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity. The national residential average rate is 9.3 cents per kilowatt hour, while Californians pay on average 12.5 cents, according to Edison Electric Institute, a Washington D.C.-based association for investor-owned utilities.

Their spokesman, Jason Cuevas, said Kirkwood’s costs are high because of their reliance on one source of fuel: diesel.

“We count fuel diversity as a cornerstone of this industry,” he said. “In the long run it would be beneficial to bring in other sources of fuel because it allows for economic development. It’s easier to draw business and residents into an area if they know they can rely on affordable electricity.”

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