PSD

Post image for Will the Supreme Court Review EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations? Part II

In Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, petitioners — a coalition of industry groups, states, and non-profit organizations — sought to overturn the EPA’s endangerment, tailpipe, triggering, and tailoring rules for greenhouse gases (GHGs). In June of last year, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the EPA, upholding the four GHG rules. In August, coalition members petitioned for an en banc (full court) rehearing of the case. On Dec. 20, 2012 the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the petitions by 5-2.

However, given the importance of the issues and the strength of the two dissenting opinions, the case may go to the Supreme Court. Last week, I reviewed Judge Janice Rogers Brown’s dissenting opinion. Today, I review Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s dissent.

Judge Brown chiefly addresses the “interpretative shortcomings” of the Mass. v. EPA Supreme Court decision, which authorized the EPA to regulate GHGs via the Clean Air Act (CAA). Kavanaugh directs his fire at the opinion, shared by the EPA and the five-judge majority, that the CAA’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) preconstruction permitting program applies to GHGs, and at the agency’s attempt to “tailor” away the consequent “absurd results” by rewriting the statute. [click to continue…]

Post image for How Absurd Is Regulating Greenhouse Gases through the Clean Air Act?

Pretty darn near the height of absurdity. That’s not just my opinion. It’s a key premise of EPA’s “Tailoring Rule,” which exempts small greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters from regulation under the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) pre-construction permitting program and Title V operating permits program.

As EPA explains in a brief filed last week with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, once the agency’s GHG emission standards for new motor vehicles took effect on January 2, 2011, “major stationary sources” of GHG emissions became “automatically subject” to PSD and Title V permitting requirements. A facility with a potential to emit 250 tons per year (tpy) of a regulated air pollutant is a “major source” under PSD. A facility with a potential to emit 100 tpy is a “major source” under Title V. Whereas only large industrial facilities emit 100-250 tpy of smog- and soot-forming air pollutants, literally millions of small entities — big box stores, apartment and office buildings, hospitals, schools, large houses of worship, Dunkin’ Donut shops – use enough natural gas or oil for heating or cooking to emit 100-250 tpy of carbon dioxide (CO2).

EPA and its state counterparts lack the administrative resources to process millions of PSD and Title V permit applications. Thus, applying the CAA as written to GHGs leads to “absurd results” — an ever-growing backlog of permit applications that would cripple both environmental enforcement and economic development. Massive increases in the budgets and staff of environmental agencies would be required to handle the mountains of paperwork. From EPA’s brief:

EPA studied and considered the breadth and depth of the projected administrative burdens in the Tailoring Rule. There, EPA explained that immediately applying the literal PSD statutory threshold of 100/250 tpy [tons per year] to greenhouse gas emissions, when coupled with the “any increase” trigger for modifications under 42 U.S.C. §§7479, 7411(a)(4), would result in annual PSD permit applications submitted to State and local permitting agencies to increase nationwide from 280 to over 81,000 per year, a 300-fold increase. 75 Fed. Reg. at 31,535-40, 31,554. Following a comprehensive analysis, EPA estimated that these additional PSD permit applications would require State permitting authorities to add 10,000 full-time employees and incur additional costs of $1.5 billion per year just to process these applications, a 130-fold increase in the costs to States of administering the PSD program. Id. at 31,539/3. Sources needing operating permits would jump from 14,700 to 6.1 million as a result of application of Title V to greenhouse gases, a 400-fold increase. When EPA [in an earlier asssessment] assumed a mere 40-fold increase in applications – one-tenth of the actual increase – and no increase in employees to process them, the processing time for Title V permits would jump from 6-10 months to ten years. Hiring the 230,000 full-time employees necessary to produce the 1.4 billion work hours required to address the actual increase in permitting functions would result in an increase in Title V administration costs of $21 billion per year. Id. at 31,535-40, 31,577 [emphasis added].

For perspective, EPA’s budget request for FY 2012 is $8.973 billion. Hiring the 230,000 bureaucrats needed to process Title V applications from GHG emitters under the statutory definition of “major source” would cost more than twice as much as EPA’s total budget.

As expected, EPA fails to draw the obvious conclusion from its own analysis, namely: Regulating GHGs via the CAA leads to absurd results because Congress never designed or intended for the Act to regulate GHGs. [click to continue…]

Post image for Hitting EPA’s Pause Button – What Are the Benefits, Risks? (Updated)

Yesterday (Feb. 16), House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) engaged in a colloquy with Interior and Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) on Sec. 1746 of H.R. 1, the One-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011.

Sec. 1746 of H.R. 1 states:

None of the funds made available to the Environmental Protection Agency by this division or any other Act may be expended for purposes of enforcing or promulgating any regulation (other than with respect to section 202 of the Clean Air Act) or order, taking action relating to, or denying approval of state implementation plans or permits because of the emissions of greenhouse gases due to concerns regarding possible climate change.

Sec. 1746 would block EPA regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, which ends on September 30. “The funding limitation will allow Congress to carefully and thoroughly debate a permanent clarification to the Clean Air Act to ensure it remains a strong tool for protecting public health by regulating and mitigating air pollutants, and that it is not transformed into a vehicle to impose a national energy tax,” explains Chairman Whitfield’s press release. Whitfield is a co-sponsor of the Energy Tax Prevention Act, which would overturn the legal force and effect of EPA’s Endangerment Rule, Tailoring Rule, and other rules imposing greenhouse gas permitting requirements on state governments and stationary sources.

In the colloquy, Chairman Simpson states: ”EPA’s GHG regulations need to be stopped in their tracks, and that’s what section 1746 does – it provides a timeout for the balance of the fiscal year, during which time EPA will be prohibited from acting on them or enforcing them.” In Whitfield’s words: “This CR [Continuing Resolution] provision is Congress hitting the pause button during the very brief period of the CR, allowing time to go through regular order and pass the Upton-Inhofe bill.”

[click to continue…]

Can environmental agencies use BACT determinations to require major emitting facilities to switch fuels?

This arcane-sounding question is of great practical importance to energy consumers and the economy. It is a question addressed in EPA’s long-awaited PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for Greenhouse Gases, posted online yesterday in Politico.

EPA’s guidance document is intended to assist permit writers and permit applicants determine what constitutes “best available control technology” (BACT) for greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting facilities. On January 2, 2011, EPA’s motor vehicle GHG emission standards will go into effect, making GHGs air pollutants “subject to regulation” under the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) pre-construction permitting program. Any firm planning to build or modify a large GHG-emitting facility (e.g. a coal-fired power plant, an oil refinery, a cement production facility) will first have to obtain a PSD permit from EPA or a State environmental agency.  To obtain a PSD permit, the applicant will have to demonstrate that the new or modified facility incorporates BACT by virtue of its combustion processes, work practices, technology controls, or some combination thereof.

A question that has come up time and again in discussions of EPA regulation of GHGs is whether BACT can be interpreted to require facilities to change the fuels they use. For example, could a permitting agency decide that an electric generating unit is not BACT-compliant unless the facility switches fuels from coal to natural gas, or from natural gas to a mixture of gas and wind?

Waxman-Markey died in the Senate when the public realized that cap-and-trade is a stealth energy tax.  Cap-and-trade functions as an energy tax in large part because it is designed to suppress and, ultimately, eliminate electricity production from coal, America’s most abundant and affordable electricity fuel.

If BACT can be interpreted to require fuel switching, then it can empower activist bureaucrats to implement the anti-coal agenda that the American people rejected on November 2.

Where does EPA’s guidance document stand on this critical issue? Here’s what it says:

While Step 1 [of the BACT determination process] is intended to capture a broad array of potential options for pollution control, this step of the process is not without limits. EPA has recognized that a Step 1 list of options need not necessarily include inherently lower polluting processes that would fundamentally redefine the nature of the source proposed by the permit applicant.* [p. 25]

* In re Prairie State Generating Company, 13 E.A.D. 1, 23 (EAB 2006).

EPA does not interpret the CAA to prohibit fundamentally redefining the source and has recognized that permitting authorities have the discretion to conduct a broader BACT analysis if they desire.**  The “redefining the source” issue is ultimately a question of degree that is within the discretion of the permitting authority. [p. 28]

** In re Knauf Fiber Glass, 8 E.A.D. at 136; In re Old Dominion Cooperative, 3 E.A.D. at 793.

So, although BACT options ”need not necessarily include inherently lower polluting processes that would fundamentally redefine the nature of the source,” EPA “does not interpret” BACT “to prohibit fundamentally redefining the source,” leaving such decisions to the “discretion of the permitting authority.”

It would be prudent to suppose that anti-coal bureaucrats at EPA and State agencies will do whatever they think they can get away with.