The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remanded a PSD permit on Thursday for a proposed coal plant addition near Vernal, Utah.
EPA says that it cannot grant such permits until it decides what to do about limiting the CO2 emissions that the plant will produce.
The decision will essentially delay any new coal plant in the United States for at least a couple of years.
The Sierra Club went before the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) in May this year requesting that the air permit for Deseret Power Electric Cooperative’s proposed waste coal-fired power plant be overturned because it failed to require any controls on carbon dioxide pollution. Once the 110 MW Bonanza plant was in operation, it would have emitted 3.37 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.
On Thursday, the permit was overturned.
The ruling will make it much harder for companies to receive permits for new coal plants. This could have a significant impact on the US coal industry as over 100 coal plants are in various stages of development around the country.
“They’re sending this permit — and effectively sending every other permit — back to square one,” said David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club.
“It’s minimum a one to two year delay for every proposed coal-fired power plant in the United States.”
The ruling makes reference to the landmark Massachusetts v. EPA decision last year that declared carbon dioxide a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Until Thursday’s decision, the EPA had not yet acted on this ruling.
Coal Plants are Huge Carbon Emitters
Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permits are for construction projects that may significantly increase air pollutant emissions. Part of the process for granting a PSD permit is determining what Best Available Control Technology (BACT) to use in order to minimize pollutant emissions.
“Coal plants emit 30% of our nation’s global warming pollution. Building new coal plants without controlling their carbon emissions could wipe out all of the other efforts being undertaken by cities, states and communities across the country,” said Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign. “Everyone has a role to play and it’s time that the coal industry did its part and started living up to its clean coal rhetoric.”
Good News for Low-Carbon Technologies
Thursday’s decision helps pave the way to making solar, wind, nuclear and other low-carbon technologies more competitive.
“Instead of pouring good money after bad trying to fix old coal technology, investors should be looking to wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies that are going to power the economy, create jobs, and help the climate recover,” said Nilles.
View the ruling [PDF document, 69 pages]