EPA approves Massachusetts regional haze SIP for 2008-2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is approving a revision to the Massachusetts State Implementation Plan (SIP) that addresses regional haze for the first planning period from 2008 through 2018 and affects coal-fired capacity in the state.

EPA plans to post a notice of that approval in the Sept. 19 Federal Register. The revision was submitted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in December 2011, with supplemental final submittals in August 2012.

On May 24, 2012, EPA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) that proposed approval of the SIP. In that rulemaking, EPA proposed to approve the MassDEP Regional Haze State Implementation Plan dated December 2011, and also proposed to approve under parallel processing, proposed revisions to the Massachusetts Haze SIP dated February 2012.

Specifically, EPA proposed to approve the various adopted elements of Massachusetts’ Haze Plan, including: an amended emission control plan for the Mt. Tom power plant dated May 2009; facility shutdown of the coal-fired Somerset Power LLC dated June 2011; and modified emission control plan for Wheelabrator Saugus Inc. dated March 2012. Wheelabrator Saugus is a municipal waste combustion facility.

Furthermore, pursuant to MassDEP’s May 2012 request for parallel processing, EPA proposed approval of SIP elements that were still in the proposed stage, including: a proposed amended emission control plan approval for Salem Harbor Station dated February 2012; and proposed amended emission control plan approval for Brayton Point Station dated February 2012.

EPA received comments from Dominion Energy New England, which had controlled the largely coal-fired Brayton Point and Salem Harbor plants, and a joint letter from the Sierra Club and Conservation Law Foundation. The Dominion comments were generally supportive of the Massachusetts alternative to Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) demonstration and long term strategy and therefore require no response, EPA said.

The agency then addressed various comments from the Sierra Club and Conservation Law Foundation (for brevity, called simply “Sierra Club”).

As an example, the Sierra Club commented that Massachusetts improperly takes credit in its BART alternative for the Salem Harbor Station shutdown by: assuming for purposes of the BART benchmark that Salem Harbor Unit 4 would continue to operate past 2014 when in fact it will not (due to a consent decree); and then crediting the emission reductions from the pending shutdown of Units 1 through 4 to Massachusetts’s BART alternative, when these reductions will happen regardless of what Massachusetts does, due to the same consent decree.

EPA responded: “The consent decree requires that Salem Harbor ‘remove from service’ Units 1 and 2 by December 31, 2011, and Units 3 and 4 by June 1, 2014. However, the consent decree defines ‘remove from service’ as ceasing to generate electricity to supply the power grid. The consent decree does not prohibit these units from operating for purposes other than generating electricity to supply the power grid. Consequently, the consent decree is not a federally enforceable limit on emissions from these units.”

Several of the Massachusetts units covered by the plant already have installed SO2 controls or are planning additional SO2 controls to help them meet regulatory limits. Brayton Point has installed SO2 controls on Units 1-3. Mount Tom has installed a dry scrubber. Salem Harbor plans to shut down all units by 2014. Somerset Power shut down in 2010. Canal Station is using lower sulfur oil and will be subject to MassDEP’s proposed low sulfur oil regulation.

Brayton Point Unit 1-3 are fired by coal, while Unit 4 is fired by oil and natural gas. Salem Harbor Unit 4 is fired by oil, while Unit 3 is fired by (and the shut Units 1-2 were fired by) coal. Mount Tom, controlled by FirstLight Power Resources, is fired by coal.

Footprint Power reached an agreement in the summer of 2012 to buy the existing Salem Harbor plant from a Dominion subsidiary and plans to build a new gas-fired power plant on the property.

Dominion Resources (NYSE: D) in August completed the sale of Brayton Point and other assets to Energy Capital Partners II LLCBrayton Point owns and operates an approximately 1,544 MW facility consisting of three coal-fired units, one gas/oil-fired steam unit and four small diesel-fired units located in Somerset, Mass.

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.