EPA Environmental Appeals Board Rejects Challenge to GHG Permit Limits

Sierra Club challenged as insufficient the permit limits for greenhouse gases (GHGs) imposed by EPA in a permit for a new natural gas-fired power plant issued for the La Paloma Energy Center. In re: La Paloma Energy Center.  On March 14, EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) rejected Sierra Club’s challenge and affirmed EPA’s use of a menu of GHG permit limits for the permittee to choose from, depending on the turbine model selected by the permittee.

Rather than set a single permit limit based upon the best available control technology (BACT), EPA allowed the permittee to choose its GHG limit based on its choice of which turbine to use in its new plant, from one of three choices.  Sierra Club urged that the mandate for BACT required EPA to set a single limit based on the turbine which controlled GHGs most efficiently.  The EAB held that each of the three turbine choices met BACT requirements, so EPA had discretion to allow the permittee to choose which turbine to use.  Once the choice is made, the limits based on the other two turbine choices will be eliminated from the permit, so that a single limit will apply.  Even though there were differences in the GHG emissions of the three turbine technologies, EPA’s determination that those differences were marginal in the amount of GHGs emitted was supported by the record.  The EAB ruling allows EPA broad discretion and flexibility in setting GHG limits for the growing number of new natural gas-burning power plants.

For more information on EPA’s permit program for GHGs, contact Steve O’Day or Phillip Hoover.

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