EPA board refuses to hear appeal of Palmdale hybrid plant permit

The U.S. Environmental Appeals Board, an adjunct of the U.S. Environmental Protection, has refused to review an EPA decision approving an air permit for the city of Palmdale, Calif., for a hybrid solar power plant.

A private citizen, Rob Simpson, petitioned the board in November 2011 to review a prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) permit that EPA’s Region 9 office issued to the city of Palmdale. The permit authorizes the city to construct and operate the Palmdale Hybrid Power Project (PHPP), which is a proposed 570-MW baseload natural gas-solar plant that is designed to generate up to 50 MW of its total electric power using a solar array.

Simpson’s appeal presented several overarching issues.

  • The first issue is whether the region clearly erred or abused its discretion in declining to extend or reopen the public comment period.
  • The second issue is whether the region clearly erred or abused its discretion in determining the best available control technology (BACT) for emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). In particular, Simpson asserted that the region failed to identity algae ponds as an available control technology in step 1 of its BACT analysis; failed to properly rank the control technologies in step 3 of its BACT analysis; should have considered alternative solar power configurations in its analysis of the solar power component beyond the 50 MW proposed by the city; and improperly dismissed one control technology, carbon capture and storage (CCS), as economically infeasible in step 4 of the BACT analysis.
  • The third issue Simpson raised is whether the region abused its discretion by failing to conduct an independent analysis of the need for the facility under a section of the Clean Air Act.

“The Board denies review of the Final Permit,” said the board’s Sept. 17 ruling. “Mr. Simpson has not demonstrated that review is warranted on any of the grounds presented.”

Palmdale Hybrid 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. 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.

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.