|PSNH Questions Legality Of EPA Air Permit Consent Decree|
In June 11 comments, utility Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH) questioned the legality of a recent proposed consent decree between EPA and environmentalists that would set a July 31 deadline for EPA to respond to Sierra Club's petition asking the agency to object to the air permit of a power plant at the heart of an interstate pollution dispute. PSNH contends that EPA's May 13 proposed consent decree with Sierra Club is unlawful “because it presumes Sierra Club may be awarded litigation costs . . . for initiating and settling Sierra Club v. McCarthy, and allows the parties to resolve the cost issue without a final court order and outside of the public review process.”
The consent decree would settle Sierra Club's suit filed December 18 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which the group brought after EPA failed to respond to its petition for the agency to object to the Title V operating permit of Schiller Station within a statutory 60-day period. Sierra Club earlier petitioned EPA to object to the permit, issued by New Hampshire under delegated Clean Air Act authority, because of what it says are flaws in the permit that allow excess pollution. Sierra Club alleged in its suit that the Title V permit lacks sufficiently stringent sulfur dioxide (SO2) numerical emission limits, does not impose proper averaging periods for SO2 limits, does not include required limits for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and does not ensure adequate monitoring to ensure compliance with PM2.5 limits.
Schiller Station is also at the heart of a dispute with the town of Eliot in neighboring Maine, which has brought a separate petition against the plant under section 126, which allows states or localities to petition EPA to directly regulate out-of-state sources that they say are causing them NAAQS compliance problems. The town says high SO2 levels monitored in the town can be attributed to the Schiller Station, and EPA is now considering its response to the petition based on the results from air monitoring conducted specifically to test the town's case. However, in its October 17 comments to EPA on Sierra Club's Title V permit petition, PSNH rejected criticisms made in that petition over SO2 emissions from Schiller Station compromising air quality in Eliot. The section 126 provision is little-used, but has in one instance been successfully employed by New Jersey to force emissions reductions in pollution from a Pennsylvania power plant.