As a first step toward curbing methane emissions from existing sources, EPA has released a proposed framework for the Natural Gas Star Methane Challenge Program. EPA is scheduled to propose regulations this summer to reduce methane emissions from new and modified sources. Therefore, any sources that exist before the date EPA proposes those regulations would not be required to reduce their methane emissions until EPA adopts methane regulations for existing sources. In order to try to reduce methane emissions from existing sources in the interim, EPA will be looking to industry to voluntarily reduce methane emissions by participating in the Natural Gas Star Methane Challenge Program. (more…)
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Major Air Enforcement Action Against New Plant Owner Suggests the Value of EPA’s “New Owner Audit Policy”Thursday, May 21, 2015 11:41 am by Tim Wilkins and Kevin Ewing
A new $1.3 million Clean Air Act penalty action by U.S. EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality against AK Steel Corporation has received significant public and media attention this week. The proposed consent decree, filed with the court and opened for public comment on May 19th, includes significant cash penalties and supplemental environmental project requirements, along with burdensome obligations to establish an environmental management system, perform third party audits, and install costly new pollution controls. Less often mentioned in this week’s stories about the consent decree is the fact that AK Steel just acquired the facility in question last year. (more…)
Richard Alonso, Jeff Holmstead, Tim Wilkins and Sandra Snyder
On August 12, 2014, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit issued under the Clean Air Act (CAA) by EPA to the Avenal Power Center. Sierra Club v. EPA, No. 11-73342 (9th Cir. Aug. 12, 2014). The PSD permit authorized the construction of a 600 MW natural gas-fired plant located in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The plant was required to install state-of-the-art pollution controls for all traditionally regulated pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide. The Court vacated the PSD permit because it found it was improper for EPA to issue a PSD permit that did not address new CAA requirements that were promulgated by EPA after the application was submitted.
Although EPA has the authority to grandfather pending applications, it must exercise that authority through regulation by setting an effective date for the new regulation which would make the regulation applicable to permit applications submitted after a given date. When EPA does not address grandfathering in its regulations, the court stated that all PSD permits that are not final prior to the effective date of the new rule must be revised to address any new regulatory requirement, even if the permit had already been through the public comment process. The Court implied that any new assessment would likely need to go through a separate public comment process. (more…)
Michael Weller and Heather Palmer
Spurred by several recent industrial incidents, both onshore and offshore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced several potential revisions to its Clean Air Act Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations. The RMP program Request for Information (2014 RMP RFI) contemplates a vast array of changes that could, on the one hand, increase the number of sources regulated, e.g., the addition of ammonium nitrate as a regulated substance; and on the other, increase the costs of those sources currently regulated, e.g., mandatory third-party audits, installation of automated detection and monitoring systems.
Other proposed changes could be controversial or simply difficult for sources to integrate, e.g., mandatory root cause investigations, siting requirements, mandatory disclosure of chemicals and accident history for the facility. At this time, EPA indicates that it is not committed to undertaking a rulemaking and that it is engaged only in information gathering to assess whether changes to the RMP are necessary. Comments on the RFI must be received by October 29, 2014. (more…)
To address past issues associated with invalid Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) generated for compliance with the renewable fuels standard (RFS), EPA has established a voluntary quality-assurance program (QAP). 79 Fed. Reg. 42,078 (July 18, 2014).
Types of RINs Available
Under the voluntary QAP, independent third-party auditors can certify the validity of various types of RINs. Three of the four types of RINs available to establish compliance under the RFS program are verified RINs: (more…)
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