CSAPR on the Back Burner…For Now
Coal-fired power generators have been able to place the reduction of SO2 and NOx on the back burner this year, so to speak, at least temporarily. Thanks to a federal court granting a request to stay the EPA rule in December, power generators have been able to eschew further SO2 and NOx reduction.
More than three dozen lawsuits have been filed against CSAPR, accusing the rule of being one of the “most costly, burdensome and arbitrary” rules ever issued under the Clean Air Act.
Since the stay, EPA has tried to appease some companies and states by releasing minor changes to the rule. The Final Revisions Rule revises state SO2 and NOx budgets for Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Wisconsin, and new set-asides for Arkansas and Texas. The rule also revises unit-level allocations for Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to better account for utility consent decrees. The rule also amends the assurance penalty provisions for all states within the programs so they start in 2014 instead of 2012.
“By delaying the assurance penalty provisions, EPA is providing utilities with slightly more time to rely on emission trading as a compliance strategy and more time to install emission controls,” said Todd Palmer, partner at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP. Trading of SO2 and NOx credits between states is expected to make CSAPR compliance more feasible.
An oral argument over CSAPR was held on April 13 in Washington D.C. before a federal court. “The panel seemed most concerned that EPA’s methodology for developing state emission budgets, specifically whether EPA is forcing states to reduce their emissions beyond what is otherwise necessary to mitigate the state’s contribution to downwind air pollution concentrations,” Palmer said.
It is expected that the court could reach a decision on CSAPR as early as this summer, which could be followed by substantive changes to the rule by the EPA, Palmer said. However, it is also rumored that EPA may not reach a decision until the beginning of or during 2013. Ultimately, many in the industry expect that the final outcome of CSAPR will remain the same as its current form or something very close to it.
Mike Walsh, vice president of engineering for MET, which manufactures scrubbers for SO2 control and provides scrubber upgrades, says his company has seen little movement from utilities in response to CSAPR specifically. Utilities are still hesitant to dive full-in to a control plan for SO2 prior to the final, undisputed release of CSAPR, Walsh said. “A lot of utilities are making plans, but no one is going to kick off a project until they see a final rule,” Walsh said.
So for the time being, CSAPR will stay on the back burner, and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard remains the central concern for most utilities.