EPA ready to re-approve part of New Mexico air plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to approve the submittal from the state of New Mexico that addresses the infrastructure elements specified in the Clean Air Act necessary to enforce the 2006 fine particulate matter (PM2.5) national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS).

EPA said in an Oct. 12 Federal Register notice that it is proposing to find that the current New Mexico State Implementation Plan (SIP) meets the infrastructure elements for the 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS. It also proposes to find that the current New Mexico SIP meets the CAA requirement which addresses the mandate that emissions from sources in the area do not interfere with prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) measures required in the SIP of any other state, with regard to the 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS.

EPA is taking public comment on this proposed approval until Nov. 13.

In October 2006, EPA published revised standards for PM. For PM2.5, the annual standard of 15 mg/m3 was retained, and the 24-hour standard was revised to 35 mg/m3. For PM10 the annual standard was revoked, and the 24-hour standard (150 mg/m3) was retained.

Under sections 110(a)(1) and (2) of the Clean Air Act, states are required to submit SIPs that provide for the implementation, maintenance, and enforcement (the infrastructure) of a new or revised NAAQS within three years following the promulgation of the NAAQS, or within a shorter period that EPA may prescribe. Section 110(a)(2) lists the specific infrastructure elements that must be incorporated into the SIPs, including for example, requirements for air pollution control measures and monitoring that are designed to assure attainment and maintenance of the NAAQS. States were required to submit such SIPs for the 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS to EPA no later than September 2009.

In June 2009, the governor of New Mexico submitted a letter certifying that state regulators had evaluated the New Mexico SIP and found that it satisfies all the requirements of section 110(a)(1) and (2) for the 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS. In July 2011, EPA found that New Mexico’s current SIP met all the requirements of section 110(a)(2) for the 1997 8-hour ozone and 1997 PM2.5 NAAQS.

Environmental group appeal caused EPA to re-look at the state plan

In July 2011, WildEarth Guardians and Sierra Club filed an amended complaint related to EPA’s failure to take action on the SIP submittal related to the “infrastructure” requirements for the 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS. In October 2011, EPA entered into a consent decree with WildEarth Guardians and Sierra Club which required EPA, among other things, to complete a Federal Register notice of the agency’s proposed action either approving, disapproving, or approving in part and disapproving in part New Mexico’s 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS Infrastructure SIP submittal addressing the applicable requirements of sections 110(a)(2)(A)–(H), (J)–(M), and section 110(a)(2)(D)(i) interstate transport requirements, by Sept. 30, 2012.

In this new action, EPA proposes to approve New Mexico’s 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS Infrastructure SIP submittal addressing the applicable requirements of sections 110(a)(2)(A)–(H), (J)–(M), and section 110(a)(2)(D)(i) interstate transport requirements. This action is not approving any specific rule, but rather proposing that New Mexico’s already-approved SIP meets certain CAA requirements.

This rulemaking will not cover four substantive issues that are not integral to acting on a state’s infrastructure SIP: existing provisions related to excess emissions during periods of start-up, shutdown, or malfunction at sources, that may be contrary to the CAA and EPA’s policies addressing such excess emissions; existing provisions related to “director’s variance” or “director’s discretion” that purport to permit revisions to SIP approved emissions limits with limited public process or without requiring further approval by EPA, that may be contrary to the CAA; existing provisions for minor source New Source Review programs that may be inconsistent with the requirements of the CAA and EPA’s regulations that pertain to such programs; and existing provisions for PSD programs that may be inconsistent with current requirements of EPA’s “Final NSR Improvement Rule.” Instead, EPA has indicated that it has other authority to address any such existing SIP defects in other rulemakings, as appropriate.

San Juan coal plant is a part of the rulemaking process

EPA noted that in September 2007, New Mexico submitted a SIP revision addressing the “good neighbor” requirement of section 110(a)(2)(D)(i) of the CAA for the 1997 8-hour ozone and 1997 PM2.5 NAAQS. In August 2011, EPA disapproved the New Mexico Interstate Transport SIP provisions that address the requirement of 110(a)(2)(D)(II) that emissions from New Mexico sources do not interfere with measures required in the SIP of any other state under part C of the CAA to protect visibility. EPA found that New Mexico sources, except the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station, are sufficiently controlled to eliminate interference with the visibility programs of other states.

EPA finalized a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) for New Mexico to address emissions from one source, San Juan, effective Sept. 21, 2011. The FIP addresses the Regional Haze Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) requirements for NOX for San Juan. In that action, EPA found that the other New Mexico pollution sources are adequately controlled to eliminate interference with the clean air visibility programs of other states.

In July 2011, New Mexico submitted a revised Regional Haze SIP to the EPA. EPA said it has reviewed the submittal and proposed approval, except for the submitted NOX BART determination for San Juan, on June 15, 2012.

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.