Posted by: tommtn | January 1, 2013

EPA Publishes Determination Approving Colorado Regional Haze SIP in its Entirety

On December 31, 2012, EPA formally published its determination approving the Colorado Regional Haze State Implementation Plan, in its entirety.  The plan was endorsed by a broad, bipartisan coalition of stakeholder groups and elected officials in Colorado, including the entire state congressional delegation and the governor.  In an era of politics defined by deep partisanship, it is highly refreshing to see an example of stakeholders and elected officials working together on a long-term, cost-effective program to protect the environment and public health.

My firm represents a coalition of national and state environmental organizations who helped to craft and support this plan, and I serve as the lead attorney on the matter.

This innovative plan will not only mitigate regional haze in national parks and wilderness areas, it will also dramatically reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions throughout the state. These improvements are projected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars per year in public health benefits, all at a significantly lower cost than a more traditional pollution control program as advocated by the coal interests.

The plan is not without its critics.  The Colorado Mining Association (“CMA”), several local governments and some environmental groups opposed certain elements of the plan, for various reasons.  In its response to these objections, EPA expressly recognized the innovative and comprehensive nature of the Colorado program.  Even though EPA may not have made the same decisions itself with respect to each unit, EPA concluded the program achieves a “reasonable result overall” and therefore approved the plan in its entirety.

Here is an excerpt from the Federal Register on this point in the context of whether the plan should have required additional controls on the electric power generation unit known as Craig 1:

“EPA acknowledges that Colorado’s approach appears to be a novel and comprehensive strategy for addressing regional haze requirements and other air quality goals. In 2010, the Colorado General Assembly adopted legislation authorizing the Air Quality Control Commission and the Public Utilities Commission to develop a comprehensive plan for coal-fired electric generating units in the state that would address not only regional haze but also potential new ozone standards and mercury standards, as well as other requirements that, in the State’s view, could apply to coal-fired electric generation units in the foreseeable future. The State desired to address these issues in a coordinated way in order to achieve the most cost-effective strategy that accounted for not only current, but other imminent regulatory requirements. This approach appears to be unique and, as noted below, will yield significant emissions reductions not only of pollutants that affect visibility in Class I areas, but also significant reductions in pollutants that contribute to ozone formation, nitrogen deposition, and mercury emissions and deposition. The State spent considerable time and conducted sequential and extended hearings to develop a plan which seeks to balance a number of variables beyond those that would be involved in a simpler and narrower regional haze determination.

Colorado’s BART requirements for the Craig units reflect a balance struck by Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, Inc. and several environmental groups before the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission during an extensive and formal proceeding; at the conclusion of the proceeding, the Commission adopted the agreement reached by Tri- State and those environmental groups as part of Colorado’s regional haze plan. As a result, the plan requires installation of SCR at one of the two Craig BART eligible units even though the Commission previously had concluded that installation of SCR was not warranted at either unit. In addition, we note that Colorado has imposed SCR as BART on two other EGUs in western Colorado—Hayden Units 1 and 2—and at the Pawnee plant in eastern Colorado.  Moreover, Colorado has exceeded the minimum requirements for BART and reasonable progress for sources included in the PSCO BART Alternative (as described in our notice of proposed rulemaking, 77 FR 18073–18075), and has imposed substantial and meaningful controls, that go beyond what EPA’s regulations otherwise might have required, to address reasonable progress sources for the initial planning period.

Under the unique circumstances discussed above, EPA concludes that Colorado’s plan achieves a reasonable result overall. Based on this, we are approving the entirety of the Colorado regional haze SIP, even though the State’s BART analysis for Craig 1 only analyzed visibility impacts at the most impacted Class I area and appears to overestimate the costs of SCR controls.”

The full approval can be found here

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