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EPA issues final RICE rule; APPA commends agency for flexibility, transparency


January 16, 2013

By Robert Varela
Editorial Director

Addressing several petitions for reconsideration and new technical information, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule yesterday amending its national emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) for stationary reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICE). APPA commended the agency for the final rule and for its commitment to transparency by inviting public comment on the subject.

"Many of our members had strong concerns about this rule because these electricity generating units are needed during times when there are local or regional power disruptions," said APPA President and CEO Mark Crisson. "With this rule, the EPA is fulfilling its obligation to protect public health while providing the electricity industry the flexibility it needs to prevent unnecessary electrical outages and keep the lights on for consumers." 

The final revisions will reduce the capital and annual costs of the original 2010 RICE rules by $287 million and $139 million, respectively, EPA said. The agency estimated that, with the amendments incorporated, the capital cost of the rules is $840 million and the annual cost is $490 million.

Among the provisions of importance to public power, APPA noted that the rule allows emergency engines to be used to prevent electrical outages and permits utilities to test and maintain engines for up to 100 hours per year. More specifically, emergency engines may operate for a combined total of 100 hours per year and may be used to prevent blackouts and brownouts without meeting emission limits for the following purposes: 

  • monitoring and testing,
  • emergency demand response for Energy Emergency Alert Level 2 situations,
  • responding to situations when there is at least a 5 percent or more change in voltage,
  • operating for up to 50 hours to head off potential voltage collapse, or line overloads, that could result in local or regional power disruption.

The rule also states that in 2015, emergency engines will be required to use cleaner fuel – ultra-low sulfur diesel -- if they operate, or commit to operate, for more than 15 hours annually as part of blackout and brownout prevention. In addition, starting in 2015, entities with 100 horsepower or larger engines will need to submit an annual report if they operate (or commit to operate) the engines for more than 15 hours and up to 100 hours per year as part of blackout and brownout prevention. The annual reports must include location, dates, and times of operation. Emergency engines that commit to run less than 15 hours year as part of blackout and brownout prevention can operate without meeting federal control requirements or emission limits.

The rules restate that in an emergency, such as hurricane or ice storm, any emergency engine of any size can operate without meeting federal control requirements or emission limits.


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