EPA Proposes Options For New Source Review Tests:

  • Compare maximum hourly emissions achievable over past five years with maximum achievable emissions after generating unit is modified. Same as New Source Performance Standards test now.

  • Compare maximum hourly emissions achieved after unit modified with actual top hourly emission rate at any point in past five years.

  • Measure mass of emissions per unit of energy output, not hourly emissions rate. Source: u.s. EPA
  • (Source: U.S. EPA)

    The battle over the Clean Air Act’s “New Source Review” requirements has shifted back to the regulatory front. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a new test to determine when powerplant emissions levels would trigger NSR mandates, such as installing advanced pollution-control systems. Industry welcomed EPA’s action but environmental groups criticized it. If the plan becomes final, some states will try to block it in court, says Peter H. Lehner, environmental protection bureau chief in the New York Attorney General’s office.

    EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson says the NSR proposal, announced Oct. 13, “will provide facilities clearer and simpler rules for operating safely, efficiently and affordably.” The rule would apply to existing units, not new ones. EPA is offering three options for figuring emissions after a generating unit is modified (table). One option is the test now in use for the “new source performance standards” program, under a different Clean Air Act section from NSR. That option and one other would use an hourly rate as the yardstick, instead of the test now used in most states, which is based on annual emissions.

    EPA says it’s aiming for tests that will be applied nationwide. Following a June 15 federal appeals court ruling, an annual emissions test is in effect in five states.
    Edison Electric Institute spokesman Dan Riedinger says his group hasn’t taken a position on which of EPA’s three alternatives it prefers. But he says, “We think that the overall proposal to adopt formally an hourly emissions rate test for determining whether or not NSR is triggered…makes a lot of sense.”

    NSR’s tangled path in courts, on Capitol Hill and in regulations has led to confusion at utilities. “There is a chilling effect to the extent to which plant managers feel they are able to make efficiency improvements without risk of exposing their company to NSR enforcement actions,” Riedinger says.

    Kim Mastalio, president of Black & Veatch’s strategic sales and marketing division, says EPA’s proposal would give powerplant managers some clarity about NSR ramifications when they modify boilers or make other improvements. With the EPA plan, “I think [plant mana-gers] can do their analysis better,” he says.
    But if New York’s Lehner makes good on his threat, the courts will weigh in before this aspect of NSR is resolved.


    Spending: House GOP Delays Seeking Wide-Ranging Cuts
    House Republicans will try for a $50-billion budget cut over five years but won’t seek broad appropriations reductions until the end of this year’s session. When the budget resolution hits the floor, the GOP will propose adding $15 billion in non-appropriations cuts to the $35 billion now in the measure, a House aide says. That move is expected by late October.

    Lawmakers are discussing paring nondefense discretionary accounts by 2% but not until fiscal 2006 appropriations bills are nearly done this year, the aide says. Most construction programs are in the discretionary sector. Industry officials are relieved the House won’t seek spending cuts in the budget resolution. But they’re still concerned about how the 2006 appropriations will play out.

    Legal: Top Court Wades into Wetlands
    The Supreme Court has decided to hear three cases centering on federal wetlands regulation. On Oct. 11, the court accepted petitions to hear U.S. v. Rapanos and Carabell v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and consolidated them. The key issue in those cases, which deal with wetlands disputes in Michigan, is the definition of “navigable waters,” and thus the scope of federal permitting jurisdiction. The Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed the appeal in the Rapanos case, says it wants the high court to clarify its 2001 wetlands decision, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County decision.

    The court also decided to take S.D. Warren Co. v. Maine Board of Environmental Protection, which the National Association of Home Builders says is concerned with the definition of a “discharge” of material into navigable waters.

    Energy: Major Gulf Capacity Restoration Seen by Year’s End
    The Dept. of Energy says there should be “considerable recov-ery” by the end of the year in Gulf Coast energy infrastructure damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In its winter fuels outlook, released Oct.12, DOE’s Energy Information Administration also cautions that a full restoration of Gulf facilities “will take many months.” As of Oct. 17, EIA said in an up-date that six Gulf Coast refineries, representing about 9% of U.S. capacity, still were closed from the storms.

    Compiled by Tom Ichniowski