Thursday, November 13, 2008

Calling Jim Hansen

Sometimes half a loaf is all you get. The EPA Appeals Board has just issued a ruling on the application of the Deseret Power Electric Cooperative to construct a coal powered plant. A permit issued by the U.S. EPA Region 8 had been challenged by the Sierra Club on the grounds, well on a lot of grounds, but principally in Massachusetts vs EPA the Supreme Court had agreed that CO2 was an air pollutant and that therefore the EPA had to set limits on its emissions under the Clean Air Act.

See if you can spot the thorn in the Appeals Board Ruling:

Although the Supreme Court determined that greenhouse gases, such as CO2 , are “air pollutants” under the CAA, the Massachusetts decision did not address whether CO2 is a pollutant “subject to regulation” under the Clean Air Act. Massachusetts v. EPA. The Region maintains that it does not now have the authority to impose a CO2 BACT limit because “EPA has historically interpreted the term ‘subject to regulation under the Act’ to describe pollutants that are presently subject to a statutory or regulatory provision that requires actual control of emissions of that pollutant.” We hold that this conclusion is clearly erroneous because the Region’s permitting authority is not constrained in this manner by an authoritative historical Agency interpretation.

By our holding today, we do not conclude that the CAA (or an historical Agency interpretation) requires the Region to impose a CO2 BACT limit. Instead, we conclude that the record does not support the Region’s proffered reason for not imposing a CO2 BACT limit – that although EPA initially could have interpreted the CAA to require a CO2 BACT limit, the Region no longer can do so because of an historical Agency interpretation. Accordingly, we remand the Permit to the Region for it to reconsider whether or not to impose a CO2 BACT limit and to
develop an adequate record for its decision.
Given that EPA will be under new management a lot before this record is developed and that a record must developed to support any ruling, look forward to a fun fest. BTW this is happening in Bonanza, Utah.


bigcitylib said...

Bonanza or Vernal, Utah?

Brian Schmidt said...

The thorn you're referring to is that no BACT exists?

I could imagine a hypothetical determination that a different BACT must apply to each type of coal plant, and for the plants that can't sequester, the BACT is status quo. That would be bad.

llewelly said...

The appeals board ruling seems to conflate CO with CO2. Could you clarify, Eli?

EliRabett said...

Simply a copying error from a pdf. Will correct

EliRabett said...

Simply a copying error from a pdf. Will correct

amoeba said...

Call me simple if you like, but I don't understand how this fangled CCS technology might work. You pump the dreaded CO2 into a hole in the ground like an oil well and it stays there forever. Simple really! All we have to do is to just ignore the fact that a faction of a percentage leakage per century and the atmospheric lifetime of CO2 will completely render the whole enterprise futile.

Let's ignore the fact that there are ~ 10e6 holes in Texas alone.

What's so difficult about that?

Anonymous said...

Let's ignore the fact that there are ~ 10e6 holes in Texas

many of them of type "A"

Hank Roberts said...

> copying error from a pdf
Likely my copying error, if you got the excerpt from DeSmog; damn subscripts move around and I failed to fix one. It took DeSmog a long time to post my followup, and I don't think they ever actually made the correction where it belongs. Sorry.

Accidental experiment in error propagation, let's call it. Sigh.

The thorn is under the acronym: "Best Available Control Technology" may mean cheap and dirty because the industry has actively sabotaged any effort to bring better control technologies to the level meeting their finagled definition of "available" (which often means available for the lowest possible price for anything of the sort).

Comparable situation -- replacement of the old utility pole transformers. It's time; they're due; the best new technology would save more energy and CO2 than all the possible fiddling with all the transportation sector, but the DOE doesn't want them installed because they don't consider energy savings or CO2 reduction appropriate criteria in evaluating cost/benefit:

(Check for updates on that utililty transformer story, I didn't for this post)

Barton Paul Levenson said...

And remember, there are only 4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire.

Brian Schmidt said...

Joe Romm has info on potential BACTs:

Re CCS, a fraction of a percent per century isn't going to be a problem. The IPCC analyzed this. The real issue is cost and geologic suitability.