|EPA Says New Hampshire Must Justify Schiller Station Air Permit|
In a September 1 Federal Register (80 FR 52752) response to a petition from Sierra Club, EPA is calling on New Hampshire to better justify a Clean Air Act Title V operating permit for a coal and biomass-fired power plant. The petition claims New Hampshire has failed to adequately control sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions drifting across the state line and hindering a Maine town's ability to attain EPA air standards. EPA finds that New Hampshire must determine whether a tightening of SO2 controls is necessary at the Schiller Station power plant owned by Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH). This determination must be reviewed by the agency once complete, and will provide the opportunity for a fresh permit objection should the state's analysis prove inadequate, the response says.
The town of Eliot, ME, also filed a petition with EPA targeting the Schiller Station under section 126 of the Clean Air Act, which allows states to ask the agency to consider regulating emissions in other states that are outside the control of the petitioning state but nevertheless hinder that state from attaining national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). The agency is still considering its formal response to the Maine town's section 126 petition. In its response to the permit objection, EPA grants Sierra Club's petition with respect to the interstate emissions of SO2 drifting into Maine, in a possible sign that the agency will also grant the section 126 petition.
EPA says that New Hampshire has wrongly relied on waiting for completion of EPA's designation of areas in attainment or nonattainment with its 2010 one-hour SO2 NAAQS of 75 parts per billion before deciding whether further pollution reductions are required from Schiller Station. Although EPA is years behind the air law-mandated schedule for making such designations, the agency says that states are still obligated to address their "good neighbor" responsibilities under the air law within three years of the issuance of a new NAAQS. EPA finds that New Hampshire must determine whether stricter SO2 controls are necessary at the Schiller Station, and that this determination must be reviewed by EPA. The agency will then provide the opportunity for a fresh permit objection should the state's analysis prove inadequate. However, EPA rejects other aspects of the permit objection petition, including Sierra Club's request to impose tougher pollution controls on the facility because of its emissions that the group says cause SO2 levels locally to exceed the 2010 one-hour SO2 NAAQS. EPA says that the existence of a NAAQS is not grounds in itself for the plant to be forced to reduce emissions -- rather, the plant's permit provisions have to be in accordance with an adequate state implementation plan (SIP), a blueprint for attaining the NAAQS.
The agency also rejects Sierra Club's assertion that the Title V permit must contain limits on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and specifically "condensable" PM2.5, which is emitted as a gas but forms particles in the atmosphere. "The Petitioner does not demonstrate that the state's rationale for its treatment of particulate matter emissions was unreasonable or inconsistent with the [air law]. The Petitioner does not discuss any applicable requirement that would require emission limits for PM2.5 or condensable PM," the response says. The agency furthers rejects several other criticisms of the plant's permit, such as its air monitoring provisions, which Sierra Club says are inadequate. EPA says the group either did not raise these issues with enough specificity on the proposed permit, or did not address changes to them made by New Hampshire state regulators.