Appeal filed against air permit for California gas/solar plant

A private individual has appealed an air permit issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a solar power project in California, partially on the basis that EPA didn’t do enough to justify its conclusions under its Best Available Control Technology regulations.

The appeal, filed Nov. 17 at the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board by Rob Simpson, was of a Clean Air Act permit issued under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration rules on Oct. 18 by EPA’s Region 9 office. The permit at issue in this proceeding authorizes the city of Palmdale, Calif., to construct and operate the Palmdale Hybrid Power Plant (PHPP). Simpson contends that certain permit conditions are based on clearly erroneous findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Part of Simpson’s complaint is that EPA didn’t extend the public comment period for the draft version of the permit as he requested so that a more detailed comment could be prepared.

Simpson said that EPA has stated that it revised its Best Available Control Technology analysis to assume, for purposes of the analysis, that potential technical or logistical barriers would not make carbon capture and sequestration technically infeasible for the PHPP. “Based upon the comments, the EPA has entirely reversed its position regarding the status of CO2 sequestration as a control technology and should reopen the comment period to allow for comment on this,” said Simpson.  “Additionally, this ‘revision’ to the BACT analysis has not been conducted in accordance with the Clean Air Act and the public should have the opportunity to comment on an appropriately revised BACT analysis.”

The EPA also reversed its position on the status of solar as a control technology, Simpson contended. “Again, this reversal of position is by no means a logical outgrowth of the notice and comment period and is deficient,” he added. “The public should be given the opportunity to comment on a full analysis of solar as BACT prepared in compliance with the CAA. “

EPA has also said that due to a comment made in the public notice process, it was revising the proposed BACT limits for PM, PM10, and PM2.5, which are particulate matter standards. “This substantial change is based entirely upon information put on record for the first time by the applicant as comments on the draft permit. The public has not had an opportunity to review and comment on this new information or the EPA’s revision,” Simpson said.

“The [BACT] analysis does not reflect consideration of the requirements of the Clean Air Act,” the appeal said. “The Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit granted based upon the flawed BACT analysis should, therefore, be remanded so that the BACT analysis can be undertaken.”

PHPP is planned as a 570-MW plant with 50 MW supplied by solar and the other 520 MW to come from natural gas-fired generation. As a 520-MW non-solar plant, the CHPP is 5% smaller than a generic 550-MW power plant that was recently analyzed by the U.S. Department of Energy in a CCS cost study, Simpson noted. Based on the DOE cost estimates for that generic plant, the cost for CCS at the Palmdale plant would be an estimated $380 million, he said. “Not accounting for cost offsets, $380 million annualized over 20 years is $19 million a year,” he added. “This is far afield from the EPA’s estimate of $75,944,187.00 a year!”

An EPA permit document said the PHPP consists of two General Electric Frame 7FA natural gas-fired combustion turbine-generators rated at 154 MW (gross) each, two heat recovery steam generators, one steam turbine generator rated at 267 MW, and 251 acres of parabolic solar-thermal collectors with associated heat-transfer equipment. The project will have an electrical output of 570 MW (nominal) or 563 MW (net). It will be located on land owned by the city of Palmdale, currently zoned for industrial use, in Los Angeles County.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.