Texas, California Show Rare Unity Against EPA Air Pollution Plan
Texas and California—in a rare moment of regulatory unity—agree the EPA’s plan to exempt all coal-fired power plants from an air pollution permitting program would create unnecessary confusion for other industries that require the permits.
States, which administer the air pollution program known as new source review, pushed the Environmental Protection Agency to limit the permitting exemption to only those coal-fired power plants that also plan to make upgrades to meet a different standard—this one the agency’s proposed standards on carbon dioxide emissions.
The EPA had asked whether the exemption should be extended to all coal-fired power plants covered by the proposed standards, and not just those making changes to equipment and operations to meet the greenhouse gas emission standards.
That suggestion received pushback in Oct. 31 comments from states as varied as California, Virginia, Texas, and West Virginia. A blanket exemption for all coal-fired plants could allow some to keep polluting without having to install new controls under the guise of improving their efficiency, critics contend. States also said the new source review permitting provisions apply to a variety of industrial plants, not just power plants.
“The proposed new source review changes create an uneven, inequitable distribution of emission reduction requirements that is inconsistent with the statutory structure and purpose,” a coalition of states and cities, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, warned EPA.
Texas, where Republican control starkly contrasts Democrat-dominated California, also expressed its concern that the EPA’s proposal, as it is currently written, would create inconsistency among industries other than the power sector that are excluded from these exemptions.
“Other industries often trigger major [new source review] when they implement more efficient processes, which allow them to increase annual production without increasing authorized hourly emissions,” several Texas agencies told the EPA.
New source review permits are required for any expansion or construction at large industrial facilities including refineries and power plants that cause an increase in nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels, such as coal in this instance, to generate power.
The changes the EPA is proposing to this permitting program could allow coal-fired power plants to escape controls for nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides despite the changes they make to improve the efficiency of their operations and equipment. This is because the efficiency improvements would reduce greenhouse gases—specifically carbon dioxide emissions—which is the goal of the Affordable Clean Energy proposal.