Electricity Daily

A Publication of The Electricity Journal

Volume 8, Number 121 Wednesday, June 25, 1997

(Back to OTAG Front Page)

Ozone Curbs Punted to EPA

The Ozone Transport Assessment Group has punted the issue of power-plant NOx controls to the Environmental Protection Agency, which expects to run with it come September. Beset with proposals ranging from more study to an immediate 85 percent NOx reduction, with a set-aside for renewables, OTAG effectively passed the proposals on to EPA at its final meeting last week. Seeing this coming, EPA has announced that it will set NOx emission tonnage budgets for each of the 37 OTAG states in a proposed rulemaking in September. The state budgets are to be based on OTAG's scientific findings.

OTAG says that "states must have the chance to conduct additional local and subregional modeling and air quality analyses, as well as develop and propose appropriate levels and timing of controls." OTAG reserved the right for its member states to challenge the EPA NOx budget proposal, saying, "The initial statewide tonnage budgets proposed by EPA may be revised or shown to be unnecessary or insufficient through additional subregional modeling or air quality analyses."

For power plants, OTAG said it "recommends that the range of NOx controls fall between Clean Air Act controls and the less stringent of 85 percent reduction from the 1990 rate or 0.15 lb./million Btu in order to mitigate ozone transport and assist states in complying with the existing 120 parts--per-billion ozone standard." This sentence was carefully crafted. It allows for no new controls at all, or massive controls, as needed, while the "less stringent" language protects newer plants that already have low NOx emissions. The reference to the existing standard is intended to make clear that OTAG takes no position on what controls are needed to meet the proposed new ozone standard, or even whether the proposed new standard is feasible. Many in OTAG feel it is not. Reference to the 1990 emission rates is a defeat for those who wanted cuts to be based on rates projected to 2007, as was done in the modeling.

OTAG's final statement does not acknowledge that modeling failed to find a combination of controls that produced attainment in all of the current OTAG nonattainment areas.

Bowing to environmental groups, the statement noted, "If trading is allowed, public interest stakeholders have recommended that a minimum of ten percent of each state's budget be allocated to energy efficiency and renewables projects." But OTAG didn't make the recommendation itself, and EPA may lack the authority to impose such a requirement.