Delaware, Maryland ask EPA to take action against out-of-state power plants

Environmental agencies in Maryland and Delaware have filed petitions with the Environmental Protection Agency asking the EPA to take action against out-of-state fossil fired power plants.

The state agencies assert that the plants are increasing ozone levels in their states and want the EPA to require the plants to lower their nitrogen oxide emissions, a contributor to ozone formation.

The Maryland Department of the Environment filed a petition under section 126(b) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) on Nov. 16 with the EPA.

The Maryland agency argued in it petition that a total of 36 coal-fired electric generating units, or EGUs, in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia "significantly contribute" to ozone levels that exceed the 2008 eight-hour ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard, or NAAQS, in Maryland, and therefore interfere with both attainment and maintenance of the 75 parts-per-million (ppm) primary standard.

In addition, the petition said that by EPA's own projections, Maryland's ozone monitors will continue to be in nonattainment in 2017 even after full implementation of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule Update, the petition goes on to say.

The EPA in September finalized updates to the agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. The rule requires certain states in the eastern half of the U.S. to improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that cross state lines and contribute to smog and soot pollution in downwind states.

The CSAPR Update rule applies to 23 eastern states that have been determined to affect the ability of downwind states to attain and maintain the 2008 ozone standard. For these states, EPA proposes to issue Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs) that would adjust the states' existing CSPAR NOx emissions budgets for EGUs and implement the budgets through the CSAPR ozone-season NOx allowance trading program.

The Maryland agency said that emissions at the 36 EGUs can be reduced at reasonable cost.

"Because this petition simply asks for EPA to require these 36 EGUs to run existing NOx control equipment in a manner consistent with manufacturers' specifications on the days when ozone reductions are needed, there may actually be no new costs to the EGUs," the petition said.

"Currently, these EGUs are not running existing controls effectively on days that the controls are needed most for ozone reductions. These controls have been run effectively in earlier years," The Maryland Department of the Environment said.

"As these 36 EGUs are physically located in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, the State of Maryland is without other recourse to limit or otherwise address the ozone pollution that results from the NOx emissions at the 36 EGUs," the petition goes on to state.

Maryland asked the EPA for a finding pursuant to section 126 of the CAA that these 36 EGUs "are operated in a manner that directly significantly contributes to nonattainment and interferes with maintenance of the 2008 ozone NAAQS in Maryland, despite the existence of cost-effective and readily available control strategies to eliminate the significant contribution."

At the same time, the state asked for federally enforceable orders from EPA directing the operators of the 36 EGUs to reduce NOx emissions "that are significantly contributing to nonattainment and interfering with maintenance of the 2008 NAAQS in Maryland."

Delaware petition

Meanwhile, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control in a Nov. 10 news release said that it asked the EPA to find that a coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania is emitting air pollutants in violation of the CAA.

The Delaware DNREC noted in a Nov. 10 news release that the plant in question is the Homer City Generating Station, an 1,884-MW coal-fired power plant.

The DNREC filed similar petitions under Section 126(b) of the Clean Air Act last summer against the 1,411-MW Brunner Island power plant in York County, Pa., and the 1,983-MW Harrison Power Station near Hayward, W. Va.

In the three petitions, the state agency argues that Delaware's air quality is often adversely affected by ozone created from pollutants emitted in upwind states.

In its petitions, DNREC asserts that more than 94 percent of the ozone levels in Delaware are created by the transport of air pollutants from upwind states, which it says is a stark contrast to what occurs within the state's borders.

DNREC said that it has worked with power producers and manufacturers and the public to reduce Delaware's own emissions.

According to the DNREC, other upwind states do not require the facilities to consistently operate existing NOX controls at high levels of efficiency, and in this case states allow power plants to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements using long-term averaging of emissions that do not address the impact of transported pollution on the short term (eight-hour) ozone standard.

The DNREC asked the EPA to, among other things, require the Homer City plant to limit short-term NOx emissions "to levels that are protective of the eight-hour ozone NAAQS in downwind areas such as Delaware."