Aug 242012

By Linda Kor
Coal burning power plants get a reprieve as a federal appeals court overturned a rule imposed by the Envi-ronmental Protection Agency (EPA) that laid out how much air pollution states would have to clean up to avoid violations in downwind states.
The decision was handed down on Tuesday as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Cir-cuit issued a 2-1 ruling that struck down the EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule, saying the agency illegally imposed federal authority over state air pollution programs, issuing standards that were too strict.
In the ruling, the court concluded that the EPA’s calculations did not take into account the impact of the contributions of other upwind states to the downwind states. The court also ruled that the EPA’s rule violated the Clean Air Act because it failed to let the states submit their own plans to comply with an imposed federal plan.
This ruling could provide some relief to power plants in the region, such as Cholla Power Plant, who are still battling over regional haze restrictions that the EPA is hoping to enforce.
If the EPA is allowed to enforce steeper restrictions than those required by the state, APS would have to upgrade Cholla Power Plant with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology to reduce Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions. The Cholla plant has been upgraded by APS since 2006 with other forms of pollution control devices that have reduced NOx emissions by 25 percent. APS officials have argued that SCR technology would not make any appreciable difference to emissions from the plant. In addition, APS maintains that the addition of the SCR technology to Cholla’s Unit 2 would make it no longer economical to keep in operation.
This latest setback for the EPA sends the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule back for revision, with the court telling the agency to administer its existing Clean Air Interstate Rule, which is a Bush-era regulation that it was updating, in the interim.
EPA officials said they were reviewing the ruling.