Combined-cycle natural gas-fired power plant gets air permit exemption

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exempted the planned 600 MW Avenal natural gas-fired power plant in California from new air pollution rules, including limits on greenhouse gas emissions, according to The New York Times.

The Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit spares the plant from new limits on sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and greenhouse gas emissions. The limits were put in place after the project was proposed, the article said.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled the permit review had gone on for too long and that the EPA needed to make a decision by August 27. Avenal Power Center LLC, a unit of Macquarie Energy LLC, requested the permit in 2008.

Avenal Power Center sued the EPA in 2010 to force the agency to make a decision. Under the Clean Air Act, a decision is due one year from when an application is submitted. The company reportedly argued in court it would be unfair to make the plant follow new rules that were not proposed when the permit was requested. EPA said it would grandfather the plant into the rules for PSD permits, the article said.

"EPA has previously grandfathered pending PSD permit applications where imposing new PSD requirements could delay construction and frustrate economic development," EPA was quoted as saying. "Our judgment was that the grandfathered projects would have a relatively minor effect on air quality."

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