EPA Notches Another NSR Settlement: Is This The Most Successful Program That Shouldn’t Exist?

Last week, EPA announced that it had reached yet one more – its 24thsettlement under as a result of its NSR enforcement initiative.  This time, it was Louisiana Generating’s Big Cajun II plant, in New Roads, Louisiana.  By now, the contours are familiar, including a penalty of $14 million and injunctive relief estimated to cost approximately $250 million.  Changes will include:

  • Installation of SNCR (not SCR) on all units to control NOx.
  • Installation of dry sorbent injection as a short term SO2 reduction measure
  • Retirement, refueling, repowering, or retrofitting of Unit 1 in the long-term
  • Refueling of Unit 2 to natural gas
  • Limitations on sulfur content
  • Plant-wide limits on SO2 emissions
  • Installation of electrostatic precipitators to control PM on units 1 and 3

It sure sounds great.  EPA estimates reductions of 20,000 tpy in SO2 emissions and 3,000 tpy in NOx emissions.  Still, I question the value of this settlement in the big picture.  I sense some double-counting here.  EPA is predicting significant reductions in emissions as a result of its industry-wide rules, including the transport rule (last known as CSAPR, but presumably awaiting a new acronym for its replacement) and the air toxics rule.

Add to that the cost pressures on coal resulting from the lower natural gas prices caused by the fracking boom, and it is quite possible that Louisiana Generating would have ended up in the same place even absent a settlement.  Throw in concerns about whether individual units were in fact violating the rather ambiguous NSR provisions or were engaging in what they truly considered routine maintenance, and the obvious economic issues raised by trying to implement command and control regulations on a plant-by-plant basis pursuant to litigation, rather than through nationwide market-based caps, and I say again that, to me, the NSR program is still spinach, and I say, to heck with it.

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