Pennsylvania DEP Urges EPA to Again Revise Federal Interstate Air Pollution Rule
HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Department of Environmental Protection is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to again revise the federal Interstate “Transport Rule,” which, as currently written, will stress electricity markets, will cause waste coal-fired electrical generation to be less cost-effective, and will constitute a violation of the states’ rights to govern within their borders.
The final rule was issued during the summer, but EPA discovered errors in it and proposed additional revisions in October.
DEP this week submitted comments on the rule overall, as opposed to focusing only on the proposed revisions. DEP’s comments noted that EPA’s rush to judgment is causing scientific and technical errors.
“It is not surprising that EPA’s continued rush to judgment on all fronts, which is driven by litigation deadlines instead of science, is causing an assortment of errors like what we see not just in this instance, but in others as well,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “EPA fails to understand or fully analyze the potential effect of its onslaught of new rules on the reliability of the electric grid.”
The Interstate Transport Rule, which replaces the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) requirements for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions from electric generating units, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2012.
Waste coal-fired power plants, which utilize decades-old piles of discarded coal that was once deemed to have too low of a potential heat content to be used by power plants, will especially be affected.
The units remove from the environment piles of waste coal, which have the potential to produce acid mine drainage because of acid-bearing material in the piles, in order to generate electricity.
As currently structured, the transport rule would require such plants to be equipped with costly add-on controls by 2014 that would do little to improve air quality, as these plants have minimal effect on downwind areas’ abilities to attain federal ambient air quality standards.
Operators, who have combined to reclaim nearly 3,400 acres of abandoned mine lands at no cost to taxpayers, may simply retire the facilities if it becomes too cost-prohibitive to operate them.
In its comments, DEP asserted that EPA has very likely overstepped its legal boundaries under the cooperative federalism mandates of the Clean Air Act. DEP supports EPA’s change of the effective date of certain penalty provision back to 2014, which was the date in the proposed version of the rule. Without explanation, EPA had changed that date to 2012 in the final rule.
“It is ironic and troublesome that EPA, in this rule, continues to ignore the substantial environmental and health benefits that waste coal-fired or ‘coal refuse-fired’ electric generating units provide to the citizens of Pennsylvania,” Krancer said. “We recommended that EPA fully exclude those units from the rule.
“DEP decided we should comment on the rule as a whole since we did not get the chance to do so when the rule was in its proposed form back in October 2010,” Krancer said.
DEP noted in its comments that this rule, combined with other EPA regulations, could cause strains on the electric grid because of electric generating plant retirements. The agency requested that EPA consult with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; regional transmission organizations, such as the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection; and independent systems operators to address the concern.
DEP also made clear the need for non-electrical generating emissions sources, such as stationary combustion engines and cement kilns, to be able to use nitrogen oxide emission allowances to meet compliance obligations in the most cost-effective fashion.
“Our comments support EPA’s proposal to go back to its original approach of not imposing ‘assurance penalty provisions’ until 2014,” Krancer said. “Postponing the provisions will promote market liquidity and facilitate the creation of robust Transport Rule allowance markets.”
For more information and to view the comments, visit www.dep.state.pa.us and click on the appropriate button on the front page, or call 717-787-9702.
Media contact: Kevin Sunday, 717-787-1323
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection