EPA NSR Enforcement; I’m Not Dead, Yet.

EPA’s enforcement efforts under the New Source Review, or NSR, program have had more twists and turns during the past ten years than it is possible to catalogue, at least in a blog post short enough to avoid crashing the server. In brief, EPA began under the Clinton administration an ambitious effort to bring NSR cases against numerous power plants. Those efforts have had substantial, though not perfect, success in court. Settlements with some targets have also yielded hundreds of million dollars in agreed-to upgrades in plant emission controls.

The Bush administration, of course, sought to amend the NSR regulations in ways that were inconsistent, at least going forward, with the pending enforcement actions. The Administration nonetheless continued to prosecute the cases that had already been brought, though at least for a time it decided that it would only bring new cases if they were consistent with its new NSR regulations. Still with me?

A settlement recently reached by EPA with St. Marys Cement, demonstrates that EPA’s NSR enforcement efforts still have some life. The settlement is the first by EPA with a company in the cement industry. All of the prior settlements were either with power plants or refineries. In the settlement, St. Marys agreed to pay $800,000 in civil penalties and to implement emission control projects. While the consent decree does not state the expected cost of the emission controls, these projects often cost in the millions or tens of millions of dollars.

There is no reason to think that the St. Marys settlement is a one-off by EPA. Other facilities in the cement industry should be assessing their potential NSR exposure, and any facility, whether power plant, refinery, cement kiln, or other major source, should assess the NSR rules in making decisions regarding facility maintenance or upgrades.

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