Groups appeal EPA decisions on 600-MW Avenal gas-fired project

A coalition of conservation and environmental justice groups on Sept. 6 filed legal papers in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging an extension of a federal air permit for the Avenal Power Plant, a proposed 600-MW facility in the San Joaquin Valley.

In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a permit for the Avenal Power Center LLC project that illegally waived the need for the project to comply with several key air pollution standards, said Earthjustice in a Sept. 6 statement. Since then, however, Avenal has chosen not to begin construction of the project even though the permit expired after 18 months.

In its latest move, done without any public participation, EPA in July waived the 18-month construction deadline, compounding the project’s failure to demonstrate that it will install state-of-the-art greenhouse gas controls and that it will not cause or contribute to the Valley’s ongoing air pollution problems, Earthjustice said.

EPA granted the project a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Clean Air Act permit in August 2011. In approving the project, EPA waived requirements to install controls for greenhouse gases and to demonstrate compliance with newly applicable national air quality standards for NOx and SO2. EPA said it could “grandfather” the project from these requirements because they would not have been applicable but for the agency’s failure to act on the permit application in a timely manner. That decision was challenged in court and will be argued before the Ninth Circuit in October.

“This air permit extension threatens to take an awful air quality situation and make it worse,” said Earthjustice attorney George Torgun. “The people of California’s San Joaquin Valley deserve better and it is EPA’s job to protect them, not to provide special favors for an already illegal project.”

The Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, represented by Earthjustice, filed the legal papers with the Ninth Circuit challenging the permit extension by the EPA

This project is being developed and built, and will be managed by, Macquarie Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Macquarie Group Ltd., said the project website. Macquarie has experience managing energy and utility investments in the U.S. and around the world.

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.