| environmental programs
EPA Raising Barriers to Coal-Fired Power
By ROBER T UKEILEY
Robert Ukeiley (rukeiley
@ igc.org) is a lawyer
who represents environmental nonprofits in
Clean air act litigation
affecting energy issues.
The 67 or so proposed coal-fired power plants on the
drawing boards in the United States face new obstacles
and may never produce electricity.
One of the latest obstacles is a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Appeals
Board (EAB) on Nov. 13, in the case regarding Deseret
Power Electric Cooperative’s proposed coal-fired Bonanza
Power Plant. Utah’s Deseret Power sought an air pollution
permit to build and operate the Bonanza Power Plant, and
the Sierra Club appealed the EPA’s initial decision to issue
the permit. The EAB, which makes final permitting decisions
on behalf of the EPA, found that the EPA had not provided
a rational reason why the greenhouse gases the Bonanza
Power Plant would emit are not subject to an emission limit
that reflects the Best Available Control Technology. Thus,
the EAB effectively voided the permit and sent it back to
EPA staff to come up with greenhouse gas emission limits
or a better justification for not including such limits. It’s not
likely the EPA will come up with a better justification.
The EAB’s decision puts the brakes on all EPA-issued
coal-fired power plant permits. However, most permits
The Sierra Club appealed the EPA’s
initial decision to issue the permit.
are issued by state agencies rather than the EPA. For state
agency permits, the EAB’s decision injects significant uncertainty into the process.
The Bonanza decision is just one of many developments
of more stringent environmental regulations that level the
playing field between dirty energy and clean, renewable
energy and efficiency. For example, the EPA has recently
made more stringent the ambient standards for soot and
smog and is slowly but surely implementing them. The EPA
is reviewing the ambient standard for nitrogen oxides and
sulfur dioxide, and the science strongly indicates that these
standards will be revised downward. The advancement of
environmental regulations is a painfully slow process, but
years of dedicated work are now starting to have significant
real-world impacts on our energy future. It is critical that
we keep up this work under the next administration.
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