Environmental groups file suit against EPA over Sandow permitting

The Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Texas Campaign for the Environment sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on May 31, claiming that the agency failed to act on their request for federal intervention in an operating permit granted last year to the Sandow coal plant by a state agency.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claims the EPA violated the Clean Air Act by failing to respond when the environmental groups asked it to object to a Title V air permit that Luminant Generation Co. received in April 2011 for its Sandow Unit 5.

The environmental groups claim the permit includes improper reference to pre-construction permit limits and that it incorporates a Texas standard permit that EPA had invalidated when in 2010 the federal agency rejected a State Implementation Plan that included that permit. The lawsuit said that the rejection of the SIP revision, and therefore the standard permit, came after the public notice and comment period on the Title V permit for Sandow Unit 5. But the groups said they did raise the issue to EPA in the petition the petition the federal agency never acted on.

Among other things, the environmental groups said the Title V permit issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should have included maximum achievable control technology (MACT) limits on hazardous air pollutants. The plaintiffs said that the MACT issue was not raised during the comment period on the Title V draft permit, which may make it improper to bring up the issue now, but said that they think that EPA has the authority to reopen the permit on that issue.

The plaintiffs want the court to find that EPA abused its authority by not acting to deny or grant their petition for objection in the permitting matter, order EPA to grant or deny that objection within 60 days and order EPA to create a procedure to respond in the future to objections like these in permitting matters like this.

A fact sheet on the Luminant website said that Sandow 5 went into operation in 2009. Sandow Units 4-5 have a combined capacity of 1,137 MW and are fired with lignite coal out of the nearby Three Oaks mine.

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.