Illinois EPA takes comment on permit changes for Powerton coal plant

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is taking comment until May 27 on its proposed approval of modifications to an air permit for the Powerton power plant.

The Powerton Generating Station is a coal-fired plant with two units that is currently controlled by NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG). The initial Clean Air Act Permit Program (CAAPP) permit for Powerton was issued by the Illinois EPA in September 2005. The permit addressed the applicable emission standards and requirements that existed at the time the permit was issued.

In a subsequent permit appeal to the Illinois Pollution Control Board, plant owner Midwest Generation LLC challenged the applicability of certain legal requirements and the imposition of certain requirements for monitoring in the CAAPP permit. In the years since the filing of the appeal, the issued permit has been stayed in its entirety. The presence of the stay, which was a consequence of the Illinois administrative review process, has prevented the issued permit from becoming effective. In addition, the stay has acted to prevent the renewal and revision of the CAAPP permit for the Newton Energy Center, which would have enabled the CAAPP permit for this source to appropriately address new rules and other relevant developments.

The initial steps to advancing the development of an appropriate CAAPP permit for this source is to provide for the effectiveness of a CAAPP permit and the resolution of the permit appeal. The CAAPP permit for the source can and must then be brought up-to-date by the Illinois EPA through permit reopening and, as needed, additional permit revisions.

Said an Illinois EPA permit document: “Settlement negotiations have recently produced a final agreement as to the numerous appeal points that presently form the basis for revisions to the CAAPP permit. For this reason, the Illinois EPA is now proceeding with public notice of this draft permit, which reflects those changes to the CAAPP permit from the settlement that are being implemented through the procedures for significant modification.”

In addition to this permitting action for a significant modification of the permit, the Illinois EPA said that it is planning, in the near future, to implement certain negotiated revisions to the initial CAAPP permit through the procedures for administrative amendment.

As an example of the changes now up for comment, the agency said: “[T]he initial permit would have explicitly required the source to maintain records of emissions of three pollutants, mercury (Hg), hydrogen chloride (HCl) and hydrogen fluoride (HF). The Illinois EPA included this requirement, in large part, because of public interest in emissions of these pollutants. In its appeal to the Board, Illinois Power Generating Company challenged the authority of the permit to require such recordkeeping. At the time the initial permit was issued, emissions of Hg, HCl, and HF from the coal-fired boilers at the Powerton Generating Station were not yet regulated by any federal or state regulations. The appeal thus questioned the ability of the permit to impose recordkeeping requirements for which no underlying statutory or regulatory requirement existed at the time the permit was issued.

“The explicit requirements for recordkeeping for emissions of Hg, HCl and HF have been removed from the permit. This is because these pollutants did not meet the relevant definition of ‘regulated pollutants’ for purposes of Annual Emission Reports when the initial permit was issued. It should be noted that recordkeeping for emissions of Hg and HCl is now required by the general language of Condition 5.6.1. This is because both Hg and HCl are now ‘regulated pollutants’ for purposes of Annual Emission Reports. Because the source is now required to maintain records for emissions of HCl, the removal of HF from Condition 5.6.1 is of minor significance because HCl serves as a surrogate for HF.”

Notable is that the Illinois EPA went out for comment earlier this year on a similar series of proposed permit changes, based on the same kind of legal settlement, for the Newton coal plant of Dynegy (NYSE: DYN).

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.