WildEarth Guardians appeals air permit for Deseret’s Bonanza coal plant

A permit for a Utah coal-fired power plant issued in December to Deseret Generation & Transmission Cooperative falls short of complying with federal air quality laws, said WildEarth Guardians, so it has appealed the permit to the U.S. Environmental Appeals Board.

“Once again, the Environmental Protection Agency has given the Bonanza coal-fired power plant a free pass to pollute,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director, in a Jan. 9 statement. “This is about standing up for our clean air, which shouldn’t take a backseat to coal.”

In the appeal filed Jan. 7 with theEnvironmental Appeals Board, Guardians challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s issuance of a Clean Air Act operating permit for the Bonanza coal-fired power plant. The 500-MW power plant is located southeast of Vernal, Utah. In 2000, the plant was upgraded to burn more coal. Under the Clean Air Act, this project required Deseret to install the “best available” pollution controls. Deseret never did so, and has been operating out of compliance with the Clean Air Act ever since, claimed WildEarth Guardians.

After being sued by WildEarth Guardians, in December, EPA issued a 25-year overdue permit governing the operation of the Bonanza power plant. Under the federal Clean Air Act, the permit was supposed contain provisions to bring the power plant back into compliance and ensure Deseret installed the “best available” pollution controls it failed to install in 2000, the appeal said. While acknowledging that Deseret illegally upgraded the Bonanza power plant in 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency’s permit failed to contain any such provisions, the group added.

WildEarth Guardians said decision from the board is likely by mid 2015.

Said the board appeal: “The need for final action on Deseret’s Title V permit application has been critical in light of clear signs that the Bonanza Plant has been operating out of compliance with the Clean Air Act. Specifically, the facility has been operating out of compliance with PSD requirements for years in at least two key ways.

“First, Deseret undertook a major modification of the Plant without first obtaining a requisite PSD permit in accordance with 40 C.F.R. § 52.21. Asacknowledged by the EPA, Deseret undertook a ‘ruggedized rotor’ project in 2000 that led to asignificant increase in NOx emissions. The result is that the Bonanza Plant has not been operating in compliance with PSD requirements, particularly with BACT limits for NOx emissions in accordance with 40 C.F.R. § 52.21(j)(3).

“Second, Deseret has been regularly operating the Bonanza Plant out of compliance with its PSD permit applications and with the terms of its PSD permit, in violation of 40 C.F.R.§ 52.21(r)(1). Specifically, the Plant has been operated at much higher heat input rates (i.e., coal consumption rates) than were originally represented to EPA and that formed the basis for prior findings that operation would not cause or contribute to violations of NAAQS or PSD incremen tstandards in accordance with 40 C.F.R. § 52.21(k)(1). This is of particular concern given that all the emission limits applicable to the Bonanza Plant are expressed as a ‘pound per million Btu’ (‘lb/mmBtu’) rate, meaning that more Btus means more pounds of pollution. More pounds means more tons of emissions on an annual basis.

“In issuing the Title V permit for the Bonanza Plant, the EPA did not include provisions to bring the Bonanza Plant into compliance with PSD or otherwise include any schedule o fcompliance to address outstanding violations. With regards to the ‘ruggedized rotor’ project and the significant increase in NOx emissions, EPA argues that it simply made an administrative ‘error.’ The agency argues the proper mechanism for addressing this outstanding noncompliance is to issue a ‘corrected’ PSD permit, rather than a schedule of compliance in the Title V permit. With regards to limits on heat input, the EPA asserts that ‘there is no limit on heat input rate.’”

Said EPA in a Dec. 3 permitting notice issued ahead of approval of the final permit: “The purpose of this proposed permit action is to correct the erroneous incorporation of the NOx requirements from the State minor construction approval for the ruggedized rotor project into the Federal PSD permit issued on February 2, 2001 for the Bonanza power plant. The 2001 permitting action failed to include an independent EPA analysis of the PSD applicability of that project and thus the permit failed to address PSD major modification permitting requirements for NOx for the ruggedized rotor project constructed in June of 2000. This permit action addresses the error by providing an independent analysis of the PSD applicability of that project and by proposing a NOx emission limit which reflects Best Available Control Technology (BACT) for NOx. The NOx emissions limit proposed in this correction action reflects BACT as it would have been in 2000, when EPA made available for public comment the draft Federal PSD permit that included requirements for the ruggedized rotor project and which contained EPA’s error of accepting the State’s permit terms, including the flawed PSD applicability analysis underlying them, without first conducting our own independent analysis. Since the proposed BACT limit will be more stringent than the current NOx emission limit, the result of this permit action will be a reduction in allowed NOx emissions at the Bonanza plant. This permit action does not involve approval of any new sources of emissions at the facility.”  

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.