EPA to take until April 2017 to act on Delaware complaint over Harrison emissions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to announce in the Sept. 27 Federal Register that 60 days is insufficient time to complete the technical and other analyses and public notice-and-comment process required for its review of a petition submitted by the state of Delaware pursuant to section 126 of the Clean Air Act (CAA).

The petition requests that the EPA make a finding that FirstEnergy‘s (NYSE: FE) coal-fired Harrison Power Station, located near Haywood in Harrison County, West Virginia, emits air pollution that significantly contributes to nonattainment and interferes with maintenance of the 2008 and 2015 ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) in Delaware.

Under section 307(d)(10) of Clean Air Act, the EPA is authorized to grant a time extension for responding to a petition if the EPA determines that the extension is necessary to afford the public, and the agency, adequate opportunity to carry out the purposes of the section 307(d) notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements. By this Sept. 27 action, the EPA is making that determination. The EPA is therefore extending the deadline for acting on the petition to no later than April 7, 2017.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control said Aug. 9 that it had again taken this action. DNREC Secretary David Small said: “We are again petitioning the EPA to act on the fact that our ability to achieve and maintain health-based air quality standards is severely impacted by sources outside of the state of Delaware. Our position has been corroborated by EPA’s own modeling technology – that West Virginia’s emissions significantly impact Delaware – and we are petitioning EPA to reduce that impact and the encompassing health threats foisted on Delawareans through harmful ozone that comes from outside our borders.”

Before DNREC’s Clean Air Act 126 petition to EPA, West Virginia had proposed more stringent NOx emissions limitations for the Harrison plant. However, DNREC’s Division of Air Quality reviewed the proposed NOx emission rate limitations and determined that, even if implemented, the new rate limits will not mitigate the Harrison plant’s significant impact on Delaware’s air quality.

Delaware’s 126 petition to EPA also notes that Harrison is outfitted with very effective post-combustion NOx emissions controls, but that the facility does not consistently operate those controls. Coal-burning Units 1-3 at the plant – installed in 1972, 1973, and 1974, respectively – all are equipped with low NOx burners (LNBs) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) NOx controls as installed between 13 and 15 years ago, but these controls are used sparingly, thus contributing to Delaware’s cross-state air transport problems, said the state agency. When the plant’s SCRs are not deployed, emissions are several times higher and more detrimental to ozone levels than when they are operating at high levels of NOx control.

Section 126(b) of the Clean Air Act requires that within 60 days after the EPA’s receipt of any petition (and after a public hearing), the EPA administrator will make such a finding as requested, requiring the Harrison station to limit short-term NOx emissions to levels that are protective of the 8-hour ozone NAAQS in downwind areas such as Delaware, or deny the petition.

Harrison has three coal-fired units that produce a total of 1,984 MW. Unit 1 went online in 1972. Unit 2 went online in 1973. Unit 3 went online in 1974. The plant uses more than 5 million tons of coal annually, mostly from mines nearby.

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.