EPA partially grants appeal over air permit for landfill power plant in New York

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will say in a Sept. 14 Federal Register notice that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has denied in part and granted in part a petition related to air permitting for a landfill gas power plant in the state of New York.

McCarthy signed an order, dated June 29, granting in part and denying in part a 2012 petition filed by Gary A. Abraham on behalf of Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition asking the EPA to object to the Title V operating permit issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to Seneca Energy II LLC relating to the Ontario County Landfill Gas-to-Energy Facility in western New York.

The Clean Air Act provides that the petitioner may ask for judicial review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the appropriate circuit of those portions of the order that deny objections raised in the petition. Any such petition for review of this order must be filed within 60 days of this Federal Register ntoice. 

The issues raised in the appeal are that: the Title V permit does not consider the Ontario County Landfill and the power plant a single source even though they together meet the 3-factor source determination test; and the facility’s Title V permit is a “sham permit.”  

The Seneca Energy Facility is located in Seneca, New York, adjacent to the Ontario County Landfill. It produces electrical power for sale on the open market by combusting scrubbed gas collected from the landfill. The DEC issued a final title V permit to Ontario County Landfill in December 2014. That permit is separate from the 2012 Seneca Energy facility Title V Permit.

The petitioner claimed generally that the EPA should object to the Seneca Energy facility Title V Permit because the permit does not consider the landfill and the Seneca Energy Facility a single source. McCarthy granted the petitioner’s request for an objection on this claim. McCarthy also directed the DEC to provide an adequate record sufficient to support a source determination regarding the Seneca Energy Facility and the Ontario County Landfill.

The petitioner claimed that when a source intends to operate at major source levels but has accepted operational limitations in order to obtain a minor source permit, the permit is a sham and thus void, requiring the source to obtain a major source permit prior to constructing or operating. McCarthy denied the petitioner’s request for an objection on this claim. She said this claim is substantially related to the petitioner’s Claim 1 regarding the source determination for the Seneca Energy Facility and the landfill. Thus, EPA considers them responded to as part of the grant issued on Claim 1. “Notably, as a result of the grant on Claim 1, there will be further activity regarding the permit on which this Petition is based,” wrote McCarthy, “including the issuance (at a minimum) of a new proposed permit to the EPA for a 45-day review period.”

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.