Tag Archives: Air Quality

4/6/2011 Daily Times: San Juan Generating Station operator requests permit change

4/6/2011 Daily Times: San Juan Generating Station operator requests permit changes [11:10 a.m.] By Chuck Slothower Posted: 04/06/2012 11:09:15 AM MDT: FARMINGTON — The operator of San Juan Generating Station on Friday requested changes to the coal plant’s air permit to allow for the installation of new pollution controls demanded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico has been battling with the EPA over what kind of technology it should install to meet federal haze-reduction requirements.

“We are prepared to move forward on installing new environmental controls that will meet federal visibility requirements and further reduce the plant’s emissions,” PNM chief executive Pat Vincent-Collawn said in a prepared statement Friday. “Our strong preference is to do this in the most cost-effective way so that the cost to PNM customers and our state’s economy is kept as low as possible.”

PNM is pushing a state plan to install nonselective catalytic reduction technology. But the EPA has mandated selective catalytic reduction, a more expensive but much more effective technology.

The Albuquerque-based utility company says the state plan would cost about $77 million, while the EPA’s mandate would cost $750 million or more. The EPA counters that SCR would cost only $345 million.
Friday’s filing with the state Environment Department requests air permit changes that would allow for the installation of either technology.

The plant’s current permit level for nitrogen oxides is 0.30 pounds per MMBtu and would be lowered to either 0.23 pounds per mmBtu with the installation of SNCR or 0.05 pounds per MMBtu with the installation of SCR, the utility said.

Located west of Farmington in Waterflow, San Juan Generating Station produces 1,800 megawatts of electricity. The city of Farmington owns a portion of one of the plant’s four units.

On March 28, PNM and San Juan Mine operator BHP Billiton agreed to a $10 million settlement with the Sierra Club to take steps aimed at keeping coal waste out of nearby streams.

10/14/2011 Let's Unplug Dirty, Old Coal Plants – Political weakness keeps them polluting 30+ years too long

10/14/2011 EarthJustice Blog: Let’s Unplug Dirty, Old Coal Plants – Political weakness keeps them polluting 30+ years too long: Across the nation, old coal-fired power plants are gasping for their last breath, having survived long past their prime because of political favors and weak government regulations. They would have died decades ago if not for a fateful policy compromise in the late 1970s that exempted existing power plants from new air quality standards in the Clean Air Act.

The compromise was based on a prediction that the plants would be retired soon, but instead it gave them a whole new lease on life, with a free pass to pollute for another 30 plus years. And until recently, there was no end in sight.

These plants continue to cough up toxic pollutants like mercury, lead and arsenic into the air. They are by far the biggest producers of the power sector’s pollution, forcing millions of Americans to seek their own life support – in the form of respirators and inhalers – just to get through each day without an asthma attack.

Earthjustice litigation is taking steps to close the loopholes and retire dozens of the old plants, while cleaning up those that continue to operate. We are employing a multi-prong strategy to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen pollution standards based on the best available science and technology.

National environmental laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water acts are meant to be updated regularly to reflect the current science. Thanks to our litigation, the EPA has recently begun to deliver on the promise of our nation’s environmental laws by taking long overdue action on limiting mercury from coal, cleaning up the air in our national parks that is obscured by power plant haze, and setting national standards on water pollution. In addition, the EPA is currently on the hook for enforcing greenhouse gas emission standards, updating national standards for smog and soot.

Our goal is to end what amounts to government subsidizing of the coal power industry, and to invigorate the clean energy economy. That’s good for the climate, for our health—and for jobs. Early this year, a report by Ceres showed that the EPA’s two new air quality rules would create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years because of pollution control equipment and jobs from clean energy development.

As EPA does its job and these new regulations are adopted, dirty coal plants are being forced to decide whether to pay the price of significant pollution upgrades – or shut down and replace that power with cleaner choices.

Of course, coal plant owners and their allies don’t want to have to make that choice. Even now, instead of focusing on ways to fix the economy, the coal industry is waging an all-out defensive attack on environmental protections that are good for the nation but threaten their industry’s bottom line.

Some coal plant operators have seen the writing on the wall. Since many plants are already past their prime, some are choosing to retire—a hard decision made all the easier by our litigation. For example, this spring the owner of the Trans Alta coal plant, Washington state’s largest source single source of air pollution, agreed to shut down the plant by 2025 after coming to the realization that installing the air pollution controls necessary to comply with air and water pollution standards was not a profitable venture. Currently we’re also stepping up efforts to shut down dirty, outdated coal plants in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Montana, Nevada, Texas, Tennessee, and the Midwest.

We’re also working to encourage clean energy alternatives. Our clean energy program includes preventing construction of transmission lines that favor coal over renewable energy sources and encouraging smart grid developments that rely on clean energy sources like wind and solar, strengthening efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, and pushing full implementation of state-level climate and renewable energy policies.

The nation is at an energy crossroads. One path cuts old ties and moves on to a clean energy future powered by a mix of next generation power sources. The other path prolongs our dependence on an energy source that is cooking the planet and making us sick. The choice is clear. Thank you for joining with us as we help build the clean energy path.

Please Support Earthjustice: President Obama keeps weak ozone standards

Just last week, President Obama delayed establishing critical new national ozone standards. President Obama is putting our lives on the line to satisfy corporate polluters. And Earthjustice is fighting back in court. The President’s reckless move undermines years of work by Earthjustice to clean up deadly smog in our air. Our air quality, thousands of lives and tens of thousands of cases of asthma are at stake. We won’t take “not now” for an answer.

Earthjustice is not standing by while our air and lives are destroyed to satisfy corporate polluters. Our legal experts are working tirelessly in the courts to stop this delay, but we need your help to support these emergency efforts. Donate now to help us fight back.

In 2008, deficient national standards for ozone, or smog, which the Environmental Protection Agency’s own scientists said weren’t adequate to protect public health, were adopted by the Bush administration. Earthjustice stepped in and sued, but before the court ruled on our challenge, the incoming Obama administration promised to revisit the standards and our litigation was put on hold.

When the revised standard still wasn’t issued by the administration two years later, we went back to court last month and asked for an order compelling the EPA to issue new, lawful standards immediately.

Now that the White House has squashed the move to stronger standards, we’re going to redouble our efforts to get relief from the courts.

The President’s decision last week to delay critical new ozone standards demonstrates why court action is absolutely critical to make meaningful progress for the environment. And with your emergency support we will continue to fight for strong air and environmental protections in court.

Please make an emergency donation today to support our critical efforts
.

With your support, we won’t take “not now” for an answer.

Sincerely,

Trip Van Noppen
President, Earthjustice

P.S. President Obama is putting our lives on the line to satisfy corporate polluters. Donate now to help us fight back in court and on Capitol Hill before more lives are lost to deadly smog.

9/7/2011 Durango Herald: Air quality backpedal – Obama’s retreat from rule was wrong

9/7/2011 Durango Herald: Air quality backpedal-Obama’s retreat from rule was wrong: One of the oft- and rightly criticized hallmarks of George W. Bush’s environmental policy was its brazen disregard for science, instead favoring political or ideological arguments. To the environmental community, and all those who value policies that are built upon research and scientific rigor, the Obama administration’s promise to do just that in its environmental efforts was a welcome answer to the Bush era. So it was with no small amount of disappointment that news was received last week of the administration’s decision to abandon an effort to tighten ground-level ozone standards.

Had the announcement been justified by science, it might have made the pill less bitter to swallow, but that was not the case. Instead, the decision appears to have come as a result of some rather basic political calculus, infused with integers from a concerted lobbying effort on the part of a range of business interests – including the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. Tapping into the hot-button political issues such as jobs and burdensome regulatory efforts that stymie economic growth, this lobbying cohort effectively chastened the administration into abandoning the revised ozone standard so as not to give Republicans fodder for criticizing Obama’s commitment to job creation and economic recovery.

The trouble is, that is a false premise that gained unwarranted traction at a time steeped in all-jobs-all-the-time rhetoric. In accepting that claim, Obama has sidestepped a more important issue: public health and its impact on economies – not to mention communities, human and otherwise – over the long term.

The revised ozone standard that was widely expected to be accepted by Obama, would have reduced the limit of acceptable levels of ozone from 75 parts per billion to 60 to 70 parts per billion. That change would have meant many counties across the country exceeded the limit. La Plata County’s fate under the revision was uncertain, but noncompliance was a possibility. Regardless, ground-level ozone – that which is generated as a result of emissions from industrial activity such as gas and oil drilling – is known to cause a range of health problems such as increased asthma rates, as well as compounded effects of emphysema and bronchitis, and an overall decrease in lung capacity. The Environmental Protection Agency’s analysis of the standard found that a 60 to 70 parts per billion limit would be the most cost-effective way to address the growing issue. Despite opponents’ claim that the new rule would cost industry $90 billion a year to implement, the EPA found that savings of up to $100 billion each year would result. Nevertheless, Obama punted.

Aside from the disproportionate role politics played in his decision to ignore the EPA scientists’ recommendations, Obama showed a troubling willingness to play fast and loose with public health. With documented ill effects associated with ground-level ozone, erring on the side of caution, particularly when that caution is bolstered by abundant scientific evidence, is the responsibility of any good policymaker. Shirking that charge in order to win an election and duck criticism is a disappointment – to those to whom the administration promised better, to those who expect reason and research to take precedence over calculation and rhetoric, and to those who have seen the effectiveness of regulation in protecting those who suffer the environmental and health consequences of the industries that shape our economy. Both are essential to consider in formulating policy and striking a balance is always a goal, but putting a political finger on the scales produces nothing but cynicism.

6/13/2011 US EPA Press Release: EPA Improves Clean-Air Permitting in Indian Country

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 13, 2011 CONTACT: Enesta Jones (News Media Only)  jones.enesta@epa.gov 202-564-7873 202-564-4355 EPA Improves Clean-Air Permitting in Indian Country: Action protects public health, allows for public participation and fosters economic development in Indian Country WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized rules to ensure that Clean Air Act permitting requirements are applied consistently to facilities in Indian country to better protect the health of people living near them. This action will provide tribes with the tools they need to ensure that newly built or expanding facilities meet these requirements, while giving industries the flexibility to choose the most practical and cost effective way to do so. These sensible steps were developed after considering public input from key stakeholders including tribes, industry, and states. Pollutants covered under these permits, such as sulfur dioxide and particles, can cause a number of serious health problems including aggravated asthma, increased emergency room visits, heart attacks and premature death.

“These actions will limit harmful pollutants, provide the health protections tribal families deserve and allow for an open and transparent permitting process,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The actions also bring clean air permitting programs for Indian country in line with state and federal programs.”

Today’s actions lay out clear requirements for issuing clean air permits to sources in Indian country and set specific timelines for phasing them in. The rules establish the federal process to issue permits to large sources, those emitting more than 100 tons per year, in areas of Indian country that do not meet national air quality standards, and to register smaller sources, those emitting less than 100 or 250 tons per year in all areas of Indian country. A rule already in place lays out requirements for EPA to issue permits to major sources in areas of Indian country that meet national air quality standards. The new rules fill an important gap in the nation’s air program that will foster economic development in Indian country in a way that protects the health of tribes, a group that shares the same environmental justice concerns as other low-income and minority communities.

The preconstruction air permitting program, also called New Source Review or “NSR,” ensures air quality is maintained when industrial facilities are built or modified. The program ensures that appropriate emission control technology is installed at new plants or existing plants that undergo a modification.

More information: http://www.epa.gov/nsr

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View all news releases related to air issues

5/20/2011 AP: Navajo coal plant focus of congressional hearing

5/20/2011 Navajo coal plant focus of congressional hearing by FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The fate of a coal-fired power plant that provides hundreds of jobs to American Indians, yet spews tons of emissions that cloud the view at the Grand Canyon and other parks, is uncertain. The Navajo Generating Station in Page serves as an economic engine that ensures water and power demands are met in major metropolitan areas. Conservationists see it as a health and environmental hazard and want to wean the plant off its reliance to coal in favor of renewable energy. A factor in whether the more than 40-year-old plant survives is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates power plants on tribal lands. The agency is deciding whether to issue pollution controls this summer for the plant, which is one of the biggest sources of nitrogen oxide emissions in the country.

“Our job is to decide, ‘Are the parks adequately protected?'” said Colleen McKaughan, associate director of the EPA’s air division in San Francisco. “And if they’re not, does the facility need additional pollution controls?”

The role of the plant also has become the focus of a congressional hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C., that came at the request of Republican Reps. Trent Franks and Paul Gosar, who represent the Hopi and Navajo tribes, respectively. They say requiring pollution controls would force the plant to close and devastate the tribal communities that rely on the jobs and revenue from coal that feeds the plant.

“This is a way to highlight the impact that it is having and the lack of commonsense that’s being adjudicated when we’re talking about coal-fired plants,” Gosar said.

Environmentalists see the hearing as a coordinated attack on the EPA and say the plant’s owners are creating unnecessary alarm with their doom-and-gloom predictions over the EPA’s actions.

Nitrogen oxide is only a small part of the issue, and the future could bring regulations for mercury and carbon dioxide, said Vernon Masayesva, a Hopi and director of the Black Mesa Trust.

“We should not put our energies into fighting over a visibility issue,” said Masayesva, who’s scheduled to testify Tuesday. “In doing so, we’re dividing the Navajo people.”

The 2,250-megawatt power plant began producing electricity in 1974 and is supplied by coal from Peabody Energy’s Kayenta Mine. Some 1,000 people are employed at the power plant and mine combined, with the majority being American Indians.

The plant’s owners are trying to stave off the EPA’s proposals to give themselves more time to secure lease extensions and right-of-way grants that begin expiring in 2019.

They contend that a $45 million upgrade of the three 750-megawatt units at the plant, which will include burners that reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 40 percent, or 14,000 tons per year, should be sufficient to help clear up the haze at the Grand Canyon. Further upgrades could cost $1.1 billion, they say.

“That puts the owners in a situation where we’re being asked to make a significant investment with a lot of uncertainty over whether the plant would be able to operate long enough to recover that investment,” said Glen Reeves, manager of power generation for the Salt River Project, which operates the plant. “That’s the tenuous situation we’re in.”

The EPA must consider the best available retrofit technology, or BART, for reducing such emissions, which are expensive selective catalytic converters. If the EPA goes that route, it would set the plant’s owners on a timeline to install the pollution controls.

“We’re definitely for the most stringent air quality measures that can be had,” said Andy Bessler of the Sierra Club. “That’s what BART stands for.”

For some, the current situation brings back memories of the Mohave Generating Station, which shut down in 2006 because it needed pollution-control upgrades to comply with a 199 Clean Air Act settlement, a new water supply and pipeline upgrades costing $1.1 billion.

But SRP officials say the effects of shutting down Navajo Generating Station would have a farther reach. The power plant provides energy to deliver water from the Colorado River to Tucson and Phoenix through a series of canals.

Those interested in what becomes of Navajo Generating Station began meeting in January in an effort to come to an agreement on its future. The plan was to give the EPA a proposal by March that the agency could consider in making a decision on pollution controls, but that didn’t happen.

At least one Navajo environmental group pulled out of the discussions because it said the talks were a tactic to keep the power plant running and stall the EPA’s actions. Similar groups are pushing a 10-year transition to renewable energy.

“That’s a win-win right there,” Masayesva said.

The plant’s owners have said they would support a study to see if that’s feasible.

Read more: http://www.ctpost.com/business/article/Navajo-coal-plant-focus-of-congressional-hearing-1388913.php#ixzz1N0AfS0lI

Read more: http://www.ctpost.com/business/article/Navajo-coal-plant-focus-of-congressional-hearing-1388913.php#ixzz1N0AWlt7V