EPA allows one claim to stand in Sierra Club appeal of Schiller air permit

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy signed a July 28 order partially granting and partially denying a petition to object to a state operating permit issued by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) for the 150-MW, coal- and biomass-fired Schiller power plant.

EPA said in a notice to be published in the Sept. 1 Federal Register that the order responds to a July 2014 petition from the Sierra Club. The Jul 28 order constitutes final action on the petition requesting that the administrator object to the issuance of a proposed Clean Air Act title V permit.

In the Schiller Station petition, the Sierra Club sought EPA objection on the following issues:

  • (Claim A1) the SO2 emission limits in the proposed permit fail to ensure that Schiller Station does not cause exceedences of the 2010 1-hour SO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) in New Hampshire;
  • (Claim A2) the SO2 emission limits in the proposed permit are insufficient to protect air quality with respect to the 2010 1-hour SO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) in Maine;
  • (Claim B) the proposed permit fails to include emission limits for particulate matter (PM) less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter;
  • (Claim C) the proposed permit fails to require continuous emissions monitoring to assure adequate monitoring of PM emissions.

NHDES issued the final Schiller Station operating permit on June 6, 2014. The July 28 order explains the reasons behind the EPA’s decision to partially grant and partially deny the petition for objection. Pursuant to section 505(b)(2) of the CAA, the Sierra Cub may seek judicial review of those portions of the Schiller Station petition which the EPA denied in the United States Court of Appeals for the appropriate circuit. Any petition for review shall be filed within 60 days of this notice.

The Schiller facility is located in Portsmouth, N.H., on the western bank of the Piscataqua River, which borders New Hampshire and Maine. The facility includes three utility boilers. Two fossil fuel-fired boilers (SR4 and R6), which primarily combust coal, are each rated at 50 MW and 574 million British Thermal Units per hour (MMBtu/hr). The flue gas from SR4 and SR6 is routed through an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) to control particulate matter (PM) and a selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR) system and overtire air for control of NOx. The third boiler (SR) is a biomass and coal-fired boiler and is not subject to the claims raised in the petition.

The Sierra Club claimed that the emission limits included in the proposed permit are insufficient to protect air quality in Maine and, as a result, the limits violate NHDES’s obligations in the New Hampshire state implementation plan (SIP) to protect air quality in downwind states. The single ciam that McCarthy allowed to stand relates to SO2 (claim A2).

In responding to comments regarding the issues described in this claim in the petition, NHDES explained its basis for declining to impose more restrictive SO2 emission limits on Schiller Station at this time. McCarthy said that what it is missing from the permit record is NHDES’s explanation of its interpretation of New Hampshire Rule 616 as it applies to Schiller in light of the technical and legal information presented in the petition (which was also presented during the public comment period). Specifically, the permit record must include the state ‘s interpretation and application of Rule 616 as it applies to the case-specific facts of the Schiller facility, including consideration ofthe information identified in the petition and the public comments.

McCarthy wrote: “In responding to this order, NHDES is directed to explain, on the record for the Proposed Permit, either why no case-by-case analysis as described in NH Rule 616 is necessary based on its reasonable interpretation of that provision, or describe New Hampshire’s case-by-case analysis and the result. If in performing the analysis, the state determines that different emission limits are necessary pursuant to NH Rule 616, then the stale will need to undertake a permit revision and a new public process on that permit revision.”

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.