EPA grants limited approval to North Carolina haze plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that despite several protests, it is issuing a final, limited approval of the North Carolina regional haze State Implementation Plan (SIP).

That plan was submitted by North Carolina officials in December 2007. The SIP revision addresses regional haze for the first implementation period. In a separate action published on June 7, EPA finalized a limited disapproval of this same SIP revision because of the deficiencies in the state’s regional haze SIP revision arising from the remand by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to EPA of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR).

EPA said in a June 27 Federal Register notice about the limited SIP approval that it received two sets of comments on the Feb. 28 rulemaking proposing a limited approval of this SIP revision. The comments were received from the Southern Environmental Law Center (on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association and the Sierra Club) and the U.S. National Park Service.

In one example case, the commenter incorporated by reference comments that it submitted to EPA on Feb. 28 regarding the agency’s December 2011 proposed rulemaking to find that last year’s Transport Rule (also known as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule) is “Better than BART” and to use the Transport Rule as an alternative to Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) for North Carolina and other states subject to the Transport Rule. The commenter also restated several of these comments, including that the Transport Rule does not comply with EPA’s criteria for an alternative to BART, and that the state cannot rely on the proposed “Better than BART” rulemaking given the DC Circuit’s December 2011 action staying implementation of the Transport Rule, a stay that is still in effect at this point.

EPA responded that these comments are beyond the scope of this rulemaking. In the June 27 action, EPA is finalizing a limited approval of North Carolina’s regional haze SIP. EPA said it did not propose to find that participation in the Transport Rule is an alternative to BART in this action nor did EPA reopen discussions on the CAIR provisions as they relate to BART. EPA proposed to find that the Transport Rule is “Better than BART” and to use the Transport Rule as an alternative to BART for North Carolina in a separate action in December 2011, and the commenter is merely reiterating and incorporating its comments on that separate action, EPA said. EPA addressed these comments concerning the Transport Rule as a BART alternative in the final action that was published on June 7 and has determined that they do not affect the agency’s ability to finalize a limited approval of North Carolina’s regional haze SIP.

Another comment asserted that the proposed limited approval of North Carolina’s regional haze SIP violates the Clean Air Act and Regional Haze Rule because a regional haze plan’s BART requirements and long-term strategy to achieve reasonable progress cannot be evaluated in isolation from one another. EPA responded by saying that the June 27 action does not address reliance on CAIR or the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to satisfy BART requirements.

Another comment said that EPA needs to require North Carolina to include a better accounting for numerous coal-fired plant retirements in North Carolina within its regional haze planning. Source retirement and replacement schedules are explicitly part of the emissions inventory that the state used to project future conditions, EPA responded. The projected inventories for 2009 and 2018 account for post-2002 emissions reductions from promulgated and proposed federal, state, local, and site-specific control programs. The state used emissions projections from Duke Energy’s (NYSE: DUK) and Progress Energy’s (NYSE: PGN) North Carolina Clean Smokestacks Act Compliance Plan in its planning. That state law forced a number of emissions retrofits on coal-fired plants in the state.

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.