More on EPA Regulation of PSU Emissions

Columbia Gas Pipeline Construction – Update

(Sent in by a reader)

EPA/DEP Regulation of PSU Emissions

(Correspondence with readers)

Reader 1:

“…after the [October 30 DEP] meeting…[PSU Assistant Vice President for Physical Plant] Steve [Maruszewski] was upfront that the reason the [Combined Heat and Power permit application] is delayed is to avoid [New Source Review].”

KW to Reader 2:

Mike Rybacki has been making the following point: “…Penn State’s coal boilers, vintage 1960’s, are pre-1989. MACT only applies to 1989 or later boilers or if a boiler has had a “modification” since then…I am still looking for a written statement from a State administrator compelling Penn State to pay massive fines for a 13-year phase-out plan that reduces the coal plant’s emissions, mainly by building-by-building decentralized geothermal installations, by 7.5% per year . . . to zero…” (10.30.13 Rybacki DEP Comments)

Is Mike correct that MACT doesn’t apply to PSU’s boilers? Is he correct that somewhere along the line, some agency should have given PSU a public document saying – this is the law that applies to you, this is the emissions level you have to reduce to, and this is your deadline?

If he is correct, it seems to me that not only is the coal-to-gas conversion discretionary (in the sense that they could choose to do something different if they were most interested in cutting emissions) but it’s also not even legally required at all (in the sense that they could do nothing).

In which case the things they’re planning to do are much more clearly only about increasing power generation capacity, and not about emissions compliance at all.

I’m also confused about DEP’s stance at the hearing. [DEP Air Quality Division Manager Muhammad] Zaman brushed off citizen talk of conservation and renewables by saying that DEP has no influence over emitters’ decisions – DEP can only react to whatever proposal the emitters actually submit.

Is it accurate to say that DEP can’t come to Penn State proactively and say “You’re currently in violation of X law and must get into compliance by Y date or face penalties of $Z per day?”

Reader 2 Response:

“Mike’s statement is an example of the mixing of regulations that seems to be leading to confusion. There is no pre-1989 exclusion for the MACT standard. It appears Mike is mixing New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) with the MACT regulations. Neither DEP or EPA would have given PSU a document saying what emission level applies and what deadlines apply. This is the responsibilty of the emission source (PSU) to determine and comply accordingly. The MACT does apply to PSU if they continue the use of coal-fired boilers after January 2016.

Zaman is taking a very limited view of DEP’s responsibility. However, the DEP has no obligation (or influence) over how an emission source operates unless they are in non-compliance or submit an application to make changes that trigger new regulatory requirements.  Yes, DEP can come to PSU and cite them as being in violation of a law or emission limit if they have proof of such.”

KW to Reader 2:

“I’m interested in clarification of the interplay between MACT, NSPS and NSR.”

Reader 2 Response:

“Bottom line, not much interplay. They are each separate regulations. The type of emission source and when it was installed or modified will dictate requirements under each. A particular boiler could be subject to all three, none, or some combination of each. It is usually best to assess the applicability of each rule separately. The more stringent emissions level coming out of any of these will be the dominant requirement.”

KW to Reader 2:

“Given the current boilers at WCSP – do you think PSU is correct in working on plans for WCSP under MACT, but not under NSPS, although depending on current emissions, they should be working on plans under NSR?”

Reader 2 Response:

“The WCSP boilers are currently subject to the MACT standards with a compliance deadline of January 2016. So they need to address this rule somehow. They have chosen to remove coal boilers and convert (modify) others to gas only in order to avoid the rule by 2016. This approach also brings emissions low enough that they become an “area source” of HAPs, so this is what really avoids the “major source” MACT rule. They also avoid the “area source” rule by burning only natural gas. So they are killing two birds with one stone essentially.

As for NSPS, this rule is triggered when you install a new boiler or modify an existing boiler that leads to an emissions increase. Whether the NSPS is triggered with the modification to natural gas on the old boilers should be addressed by PSU and reviewed by DEP. Since natural gas is a lower emitting fuel in almost all cases, NSPS was likely avoided with the modification.

As for NSR, the criteria for applicability is different but still looks at the overall project’s emissions changes (increases). Whereas the MACT and NSPS rules apply on an emissions source (boiler) basis, the NSR rules require a review of the whole project and emissions changes facility-wide (campus wide).

Due to recent changes at ECSP and boiler removals as part of this new project at WCSP, they were able to sum the increases and decreases to show a de minimus increase and avoid the NSR regulations. This summing of increase and decreases is called a “netting analysis.” This analysis can be very complex and led to most of the questions from DEP during their application review. It was this analysis that led to the question on GHG (CO2) netting in the August email from DEP to PSU.”

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