Does the Clean Air Act require the agency to consider the most low-emission coal plant technologies in permitting new plants?
Jonathan S. Martel, Jessica R. Brody, and Kerri L. Stelcen are partner, associate, and law clerk, respectively, with Arnold & Porter LLP. Contact Martel at 202-942-5470.
In December 2005, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that an applicant seeking a permit to construct a supercritical pulverized coal (SCPC) electricity generating facility in an attainment area need not consider integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) technology under a Clean Air Act (CAA) analysis of best available control technology (BACT).
The EPA’s determination is important in several respects. First, its conclusion diverges from determinations by several states that, under either federal or state clean air provisions, IGCC must be considered in a BACT analysis for an SCPC power plant. Other states continue to consider the issue, and the EPA’s determination arguably dissuades these states from considering IGCC.
Moreover, the EPA’s announcement is particularly significant in light of the need to replace aging plants and create new energy generation capacity.1 As these companies seek permits to construct their new plants, they are likely to find increased support—on grounds of cost and reliability of established technology—for their contentions that they should be permitted to pursue projects that do not use IGCC.
At the same time, the promise of IGCC to enable sequestration of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, strongly motivates environmental advocates to move IGCC technology forward during this limited window of opportunity.