EPA says board should reject appeal of permit for Texas gas project

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Appeals Board should deny review of the challenges brought by the Sierra Club over an air permit for a new, gas-fired power project in Texas, said EPA’s Region 6 office.

The Region 6 office on Dec. 26 filed with the board its response to a Dec. 6 Sierra Club petition for review of the greenhouse gas (GHG) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) air permit issued on Nov. 6 to La Paloma Energy Center LLC. The permit authorizes the construction and operation of the La Paloma Energy Center (LPEC).

“The Region’s PSD permitting decision for the LPEC is fully supported by the record, including a detailed Statement of Basis and response to comments document (‘RTC’), and Petitioners have failed to demonstrate clear error, an abuse of discretion, or an important policy consideration warranting review of Region 6’s decision,” said the Dec. 26 Region 6 response.

In May 2011, EPA published a federal implementation plan that made EPA Region 6 the PSD permitting authority for GHGs.

The LPEC, which would be located in the City of Harlingen in Cameron County, Texas, is a natural gas-fired combined cycle project with a capacity of 637 MW, 681 MW, or 735 MW. The final capacity will be determined by the developer’s election to install two identical turbines from any of three permitted turbine models.

The LPEC was designed to be well-placed in the dispatch queue of the primary electric grid operator in Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), with the objective of serving electricity consumers as a baseload facility, but also having flexibility to respond to other dispatch orders from ERCOT, as necessary, EPA noted.

The Sierra Club raises two narrow issues in its challenge to Region 6’s GHG PSD permitting decision. Board review is not warranted on either of these grounds, EPA argued. “As an initial matter, while Petitioner has cited select pages of its comment letter, the petition fails to adequately cite the relevant analysis and reasoning provided by the Region in response to those comments,” the agency added. “As a result, Petitioner fails to explain why the Region’s responses to the comments were clearly erroneous. Accordingly, the Board should make use of summary disposition to resolve this case based on Petitioner’s failure to adequately meet this threshold requirement.”

La Paloma Energy Center argued in its own Dec. 27 brief that EPA followed all of the required steps in this permitting process.

This combined-cycle plant will consist of two natural gas-fired combustion turbines, each exhausting to a fired heat recovery steam generator to produce steam to drive a shared steam turbine. The three models of combustion turbines being considered for this site are: the General Electric 7FA, the Siemens SGT6-5000F(4), and the Siemens SGT6-5000F(5). The plant is being developed by Coronado Power Ventures LLC and Bechtel.

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.