Friday, February 20, 2009

EPA Appeals Board Remands Another Coal-Fired Permit

Feb 18: U.S. EPA's Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) has remanded certain issues raised in a petition by Sierra Club for further review and denied review of other issues for the Clean Air Act permit for Northern Michigan University's (NMU's) fluidized bed boiler at the Ripley Heating Plant at its campus in Marquette, Michigan. On May 12, 2008, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued a Federal prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) permit to authorize the construction of the facility which was to function as a cogeneration unit providing both electrical power and heat to NMU’s facilities through the burning of wood, coal, and natural gas.

Importantly, the EAB directed the MDEQ to be guided by its recent decision in In re Deseret Power Electric Cooperative, PSD Appeal No. 07-03 (EAB Nov. 13, 2008) [
See WIMS 11/14/08]. In the Deseret Power decision re: the Bonanza Power Plant, near Bonanza, Utah, which was also the result of a Sierra Club petition, the EAB ruled that EPA had no valid reason for refusing to limit from new coal-fired power plants the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that cause global warming. That decision, precipitated the controversial memo by former EPA Administrator Johnson rebuffing the Deseret decision [See WIMS 12/23/08] which the new EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson just agreed to reconsider on February 17 [See WIMS 2/18/09].

In the Michigan case, on June 13, 2008, Sierra Club filed its petition for review of this PSD permit challenging a number of MDEQ’s decisions and responses to comments. EAB found that MDEQ "clearly erred in selecting BACT limits for the proposed boiler’s emissions of SO2"; "remands the permit for MDEQ to analyze whether CO2 and N2O emissions from the CFB boiler should be limited pursuant to BACT"; "remands the permit for MDEQ to reevaluate and clarify its analysis of PSD increment consumption/expansion in the area affected by proposed CFB boiler emissions"; "remands the permit so that MDEQ can ensure that the source impact modeling analyses for SO2, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide are conducted on the basis of the maximum, “worst-case” emissions rates of those pollutants"; and, "remands the permit for MDEQ to reevaluate the issue of preconstruction monitoring and explain. . . [compliance with] applicable provisions of the statute and regulations and reflect Agency guidance.

Michigan Sierra Club issued a release saying, “This is a yet another clear signal that pollution from coal plants, especially global warming pollution, can no longer be ignored. The increased costs that will come from impending carbon regulations will make coal much more expensive than cleaner energy alternatives, like wind and efficiency. The writing is on the wall; Michigan needs to start moving away from coal if we want to be a player in the 21st century clean energy economy.”

Sierra Club said NMU’s proposal was the first of an "overwhelming" eight proposed coal plants in the State and the first coal plant to receive an air permit from Michigan regulators in more than 20 years. Permits for other coal plants -- many of them containing the same air quality flaws as the NMU permit -- have been put on hold as a result of Governor Granholm’s clean energy executive directive [No. 2009-2] released earlier this month [See WIMS 2/4/09]. The directive requires MDEQ to evaluate, in consultation with our Public Service Commission, "both the need for additional electricity generation and all feasible and prudent alternatives before approving new coal-fired power plants in Michigan."

Lee Sprague, Sierra Club’s Clean Energy Campaign Manager said, “This decision makes it clear that following business-as-usual approaches like new coal plants is no longer an option. Thanks to Governor Granholm’s actions our state is already poised to move beyond dirty coal to newer, cleaner, more efficient energy technologies that can help both our economy and our climate recover.”

Access the complete 69-page decision document (
click here). Access a release from MI Sierra Club (click here). Access Governor Granholm's Executive Directive 2009-2 (click here). [*Air, *Energy, *Climate]