EPA has issued a final Clean Air Act permit to the Pioneer Valley Energy Center for the construction and operation of a new 431 MW/hr combined cycle gas turbine in Westfield, Mass. The permit is designed to prevent the significant deterioration of air quality resulting from the plant’s operation.
The federal Clean Air Act requires new major sources of air pollutants in areas which currently meet air quality standards to obtain a “Prevention of Significant Deterioration” (PSD) air permit prior to construction. There are three main components of a PSD permit:
– The new source must install best available control technology to reduce all air pollutants which it will emit in significant amounts;
– The new source must demonstrate, using air dispersion modeling, its emissions will not cause or contribute to a violation of any national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), which are designed to protect public health and the environment; and
– The facility may not cause the existing air quality in the area to deteriorate beyond specific levels that the Clean Air Act allows to protect air that is already cleaner than the NAAQS.
The permit for Pioneer Valley meets all three criteria. Pioneer Valley will install post combustion controls to minimize emissions of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. In addition, the facility will use natural gas and ultra low sulfur diesel fuel to minimize emissions of fine particulate matter and sulfuric acid mist. Pioneer Valley is also minimizing greenhouse gas emissions through the application of energy efficient equipment.
EPA carefully reviewed Pioneer Valley’s air dispersion modeling analysis and has determined the allowable air emissions from this project are in compliance with the Clean Air Act. The final permit for the Pioneer Valley plant contains several more stringent permit conditions that EPA added after considering public comments.
There was a formal public review and comment period on the draft Pioneer Valley PSD permit from Dec. 5, 2011 – Jan. 24, 2012. EPA also held an informational meeting and a public hearing in Westfield on Jan. 12, 2012. EPA received 49 written comments and heard testimony from 28 commenters during the public hearing. EPA carefully considered all comments received on the draft air permit during the public comment period, and the final air permit is accompanied by a detailed “Response to Comments” document. EPA also carefully considered assertions that this power plant would cause a disproportionate burden on historically-disadvantaged Environmental Justice communities in the vicinity of the facility. EPA’s analysis indicated that emissions would not adversely affect low-income or minority populations and that the impacts of those emissions did not disproportionately affect these communities.