EPA issues final decision invalidating state regional haze plans

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published in the June 7 Federal Register a final approval, due to take effect Aug. 6, of revisions to its rules for the regional haze program related to coordinating that program with its new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) covering SO2 and NOx emissions in eastern states.

EPA has found that the trading programs in the Transport Rule, also known as CSAPR, achieve greater reasonable progress towards the national goal of achieving natural visibility conditions in Class I areas than source-specific Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) in those states covered by the Transport Rule.

In this action, the EPA is also finalizing a limited disapproval of the regional haze State Implementation Plans (SIPs) that have been submitted by Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and Texas because these states relied on requirements of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) to satisfy certain regional haze requirements.

EPA said it is not finalizing the limited disapproval for Florida at this time because the state has requested additional time to modify its SIP to address the change in applicability of the Transport Rule to Florida in the final rule published in August 2011.

To address deficiencies in CAIR-dependent regional haze SIPs, EPA is promulgating Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs) to replace reliance on CAIR with reliance on the Transport Rule in the regional haze SIPs of Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

This action affects state and local air pollution control agencies located within the geographic areas covered by the Transport Rule and whose regional haze SIP relied on CAIR as an alternative to BART for SO2 and/or NOX for electric generating units (EGUs) subject to BART requirements, or whose regional haze SIP relied on the Transport Rule. Some of the EGUs located in these geographic areas may also be affected by this action in that affected states now have the option of not requiring such EGUs to meet source specific BART emission limits to which these EGUs otherwise could be subject, EPA noted.

CSAPR put on hold by court, but haze program still being based on it

CAIR was struck down several years ago by a federal court, and CSAPR was designed to replace it. Then a federal court in December 2011 put a stay on CSAPR while appeals of CSAPR are argued, and left CAIR in place in the meantime. But obviously CAIR is on life support and not something to be relied on in the long-term regional haze program. One key question is whether CSAPR, in whole or in part, will survive the current court challenge.

The Transport Rule/CSAPR requires 28 states in the eastern half of the U.S. to significantly improve air quality by reducing EGU SO2 and NOX emissions that cross state lines and significantly contribute to ground-level ozone and/or fine particle pollution in other states. The rule allows allowance trading among covered sources, utilizing an allowance market infrastructure modeled after existing allowance trading programs. The Transport Rule allows sources to trade emissions allowances with other sources within the same program (e.g., ozone season NOX) in the same or different states, while constraining any emissions shifting that may occur by establishing an emission ceiling for each state.

EPA said it did a technical analysis to determine whether compliance with the Transport Rule would satisfy regional haze BART-related requirements. “This technical analysis is the basis of this final action in which we are finalizing our determination that the Transport Rule achieves greater reasonable progress towards the national goal of achieving natural visibility conditions than source-specific BART,” the agency added. “For this final rule, an updated sensitivity analysis was conducted to account for subsequent revisions to certain state budgets in the Transport Rule.”

EPA is finalizing the FIPs for Iowa, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, even though it is not required by the Clean Air Act to do so at this time, based on communications with state officials that this action is their preference. “Our adoption of these FIPs at this time avoids the near-term need for additional administrative steps on the part of these states,” EPA wrote. “That is, these states do not have to take any further action on their regional haze SIPs until SIP revisions are due in 2018. However, at any time, states may, and are encouraged to submit a revision to their regional haze SIP incorporating the requirements of the Transport Rule. At that time, we will withdraw the FIP being finalized in this action.”

EPA is not finalizing FIPs, as proposed, for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, or North Carolina. Rather than a FIP, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and North Carolina have requested additional time to correct the deficiencies in their SIPs and submit a SIP revision.

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.