EPA settles two lawsuits over Colorado regional haze issues

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a notice to be published in the Aug. 14 Federal Register that it will take 30 days of public comment on a settlement of lawsuits over coal-fired air emissions in Colorado.

The proposed settlement addresses lawsuits filed in 2013 by WildEarth Guardians and the National Parks Conservation Association (NCPA) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

  • WildEarth Guardians filed a petition for review challenging EPA’s approval of the Colorado regional haze state implementation plan (SIP). WildEarth Guardians challenged EPA’s approval of certain best available retrofit technology (BART) and reasonable progress determinations for Units 1, 2, and 3 of the Craig Generating Station; Units 1 and 2 of the Comanche Power Station; Boilers 4 and 5 of the Colorado Energy Nations Company LLLP facility at the Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado; and the time by which the Colorado regional haze SIP required emission limits to be met at the these coal-fired facilities.
  • NPCA filed a petition for review challenging EPA’s approval of the NOX emission limits for Craig Units 1, 2, and 3.

The proposed settlement agreement seeks to resolve all of petitioners’ claims regarding the Craig Generating Station and establishes deadlines for the state of Colorado to submit a SIP revision to EPA and for EPA to take action on that SIP revision.

Craig is operated by the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

The regional haze SIP was submitted to EPA by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). The proposed settlement states that, within ten business days of the final effective date of the agreement, EPA will file a motion with the Tenth Circuit seeking a voluntary remand to EPA of those portions of the Final Rule regarding EPA’s approval of the Colorado regional haze SIP relating to Craig Unit 1. The proposed settlement agreement also states that CDPHE intends to submit a proposal to revise its SIP to EPA no later than July 31, 2015, which will include a determination that the NOx BART emission limit for Craig Unit 1 is 0.07 lb//mmBtu, calculated on a 30 boiler-operating-day rolling average, and with a compliance deadline of Aug. 31, 2021. The proposed SIP revision will not alter any emission limit or compliance deadline for Craig Units 2 or 3.

If CDPHE determines that it will not be able to submit the proposed SIP revision to EPA by July 31, 2015, or that the terms of the proposed SIP revision will not be in accordance with those set forth in the proposed settlement agreement, then all parties must be notified immediately.

In addition, the proposed settlement states that no later than Dec. 31, 2016, EPA will either take final action on the proposed SIP revision, or take final action on the remanded portion of the Colorado regional haze SIP if CDPHE has not submitted the proposed SIP revision by Dec. 31, 2015. If, however, CDPHE submits a proposed SIP revision that is in accordance with the proposed settlement agreement after Dec. 31, 2015, EPA may, at its election, take final action on that submission by Dec. 31, 2016, rather than taking final action on the remanded portion of the Colorado regional haze SIP.

WildEarth Guardians outlines issues in its lawsuit

WildEarth Guardians filed a brief on July 18 with the appeals court, stating in part about a Public Service Co. of Colorado (PSCo) plant: “In its BART analysis, the State arbitrarily rejected as BART the best technologies for reducing Comanche’s haze-causing emissions of NOx: SCR and SNCR. SCR can achieve NOx reductions of 90% or more. SNCR can generally achieve NOx reductions in the range of 40% to 70%. When SNCR is applied in conjunction with other combustion controls, such as the low NOx burners on Comanche Units 1 and 2, SNCR can achieve additional reductions. Based on preliminary testing done at Comanche, the State determined that SCR and SNCR were technically feasible for Unit 1 and SCR was technically feasible for Unit 2. Based on its cost-benefit analysis for those control options (which both EPA and the Park Service criticized) and flawed visibility improvement numbers, the State then rejected SCR and SNCR as BART.”

SCR is selective catalytic reduction, the mostly costly NOX-control technology, while selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR) is a less costly technology with a lower level of emissions reduction.

The brief added: “In the Final Rule before this Court, EPA arbitrarily and unlawfully approved Colorado’s regional haze SIP with respect to the State’s NOx BART determination for Comanche Units 1 and 2. BART is ‘an emission limitation based on the degree of reduction achievable through the application of the best system of continuous emission reduction for each pollutant which is emitted by an existing stationary facility.’ The State determined that Comanche’s existing NOx emission limits constituted BART, and PSCo was required to do nothing to reduce Comanche’s haze-forming NOx emissions.”

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.