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EPA Deferring to States to Decide Air Permit Objections from Environmentalists
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EPA Deferring to States to Decide Air Permit Objections from Environmentalists


Increasingly EPA is turning to the states and allowing them to decide the fate of petitions by environmental groups objecting to Title V operating permits. The move by EPA reflects Administrator Scott Pruitt’s “cooperative federalism” initiative.


Typically, environmentalists have chosen to petition EPA to object to Title V permits instead of going straight to litigation. The petition process is generally cheaper, and it can act as a basis to file lawsuits later if EPA denies the petitions.


In recent months, EPA has issued a number of denials of petitions from environmentalists, as well as a petition from PacifiCorp Hunter power plant in Utah and the Big River Steel plant in Arkansas. The denials seem to suggest that EPA will not consider objections to underlying permits that are included in Title V permits, such as a prevention of significant deterioration permit which is part of the broader operating permit. Such requirements can include new source review (NSR) or related prevention of significant deterioration air permits, which environmentalists have previously targeted and EPA has considered in Title V permit challenges.


Since the Hunter and Big River Steel decisions, most new petitions for EPA to object to state permits have focused largely on the adequacy of monitoring provisions to ensure Title V permits are respected, a narrower basis for objection. But, recent EPA decisions show the agency is still rejecting permit objection petitions.


One notable petition rejected recently was when the Sierra Club objected to a Title V permit for the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) Gallatin Fossil Plant power plant in Sumner County, TN. Another petition by environmentalists objecting to a permit for a Maryland electric utility was also rejected.

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