EPA’s NSR Enforcement Initiative Marches On

EPA shows no signs of slowing down in its efforts to use the Clean Air Act’s PSD/NSR provisions as an enforcement club. The latest target in EPA’s crosshairs is the Detroit Edison Monroe Power Plant. Late last month, DOJ filed a complaint alleging violations of PSD/NSR requirements in connection with a project to replace the high temperature reheater and the economizer at Monroe Unit 2. Aside from the broad sign that EPA remains committed to these cases, the most recent action is notable for at least two reasons:

The suit names both Detroit Edison, which owns the plant, and DTE Energy, Detroit Edison’s parent. The complaint alleges that DTE Energy “employees make decisions involving construction and environmental matters at the plant” and that it “must approve major capital expenditures at” Monroe. Naming the parent is consistent with actions EPA has taken with respect to some of this firm’s clients; Parent companies would be wise to pay attention to this trend.

The project that is the subject of the complaint took place this year; we’re not talking about EPA reaching back to projects completed in the 1980s or 1990s. The complaint alleges that DTE provided one day’s notice before commencing the project. I’m not involved in the case, so I don’t know the details, but it’s hard to imagine that there isn’t some relevant background here. Either Detroit Edison and DTE, relying on some of the more favorable PSD/NSR decisions, decided just to pay their money and take their chances, or someone at EPA or the State of Michigan led the plant astray. Time will tell.

There has been no doubt for some time that EPA is going to continue to seek reductions in conventional pollutant emissions through these types of enforcement actions. This action is also a good reminder, however, of the type of action we have to look forward to, assuming that the Tailoring Rule is upheld. If there is no Congressional action, the PSD/NSR program is going to be EPA’s only leverage to get GHG reductions.

I can’t wait.

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