EPA Seeking Comments on Reconsideration Of Air Rule for Backup Stationary Engines

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By Jessica Coomes  

 

The Environmental Protection Agency will accept public comments through Nov. 4 on its decision to reconsider three issues in air pollution standards for backup stationary engines that generate electricity, including the 2015 compliance date for requiring ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel, according to a notice published Sept. 5 (78 Fed. Reg. 54,606).

EPA also is reconsidering a requirement for engine operators to submit reports with the engines' locations and times of operation, beginning in 2015, and the required conditions when engines operate to ensure power grid reliability.

The agency said the provisions were added to the final engines rule, so the public never had a chance to comment on them. EPA said it is reconsidering the provisions so the agency can solicit public comments.

However, EPA said it does not think the 2015 compliance dates for fuel use and reporting should be changed, based on the information it has now.

The reconsideration addresses a final rule setting national emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants at 40 C.F.R. pts. 60 and 63 that EPA published Jan. 30, allowing backup stationary engines that generate electricity to run without emissions controls for 100 hours per year during electricity peak-use periods and emergencies.

Previously, reciprocating internal combustion engines, which are used in industrial, medical, agricultural, oil and gas production, and power generation facilities, were exempt from emissions control requirements if they operated for fewer than 15 hours (78 Fed. Reg. 6,674).

Three Petitions Received

EPA granted reconsideration in June 28 letters to environmental groups, power companies, and a state agency, which separately sought reconsideration (44 ER 2050, 7/12/13).

The agency provided more details about the process in the Sept. 5 notice.

EPA received a petition for administrative reconsideration March 29 from Calpine Corp. and PSEG Power LLC, whose utilities largely are powered by natural gas and nuclear energy.

The agency received a petition April 1 from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and a separate petition April 1 from several environmental groups: the Clean Air Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, the Conservation Law Foundation, Pace Energy and Climate Center, and West Harlem Environmental Action Inc.

EPA has said the 100-hour operating period will allow engines to meet the needs of regional transmission organizations and independent system operators to participate in emergency demand response programs, in which customers lighten the load on the electricity grid during periods of peak demand. In addition, engines may operate during the 100-hour period to protect electricity grid system reliability and for maintenance and testing.

2015 Fuel Requirement

In the final rule, EPA included a requirement that engines use ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel with a sulfur content of 15 parts per million or lower, beginning Jan. 1, 2015. The agency said the fuel will reduce emissions of air toxics, including nickel, zinc, lead, and benzene.

The environmental groups' petition for reconsideration said the organizations support the fuel requirement but that it should be implemented immediately, not in 2015. Delaware's petition said the fuel is widely available.

EPA said in the Sept. 5 notice that it delayed the fuel requirement to give industry time to adjust equipment, including replacing fuel seals, and to change business contracts. The agency said it does not agree that the delay until 2015 is inappropriate.

“However, in consideration of the fact that the public lacked the opportunity to comment on the timing of the [ultra low-sulfur diesel] fuel requirement, the EPA has granted reconsideration to provide an opportunity for public comment,” the notice said.

EPA is soliciting comments on whether the requirement could be implemented reasonably before 2015, whether the use of ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel is widespread, and whether facilities would need to make physical changes or adjust contracts to switch to the fuel.

Reporting Requirement

The reporting requirement that EPA included in the final rule require operators to detail engines' locations and times of operation. The reports are meant to provide EPA with information on the engines' effect on air quality and to ensure compliance with the rules.

The requirement does not take effect until 2015, however, and the environmental groups said the requirement could begin for 2013 data. The environmental petitioners also asked that the report include the type and amount of diesel fuel the engines use.

The Sept. 5 notice said EPA did not require reporting before 2015 to give the agency time to develop an electronic reporting tool and to give industry time to develop recordkeeping infrastructure.

EPA also said it would be burdensome to include the type and amount of diesel fuel used because sulfur content of fuel in tanks will change, and owners would have to sample the fuel.

EPA said it will give the public the chance to comment, however.

Criteria for Operation

The final rule also allows engines at area sources to be used for 50 hours to operate in non-emergencies for local system reliability purposes.

Calpine and PSEG Power told EPA the exemption may be difficult to enforce because the conditions put on the operations are not clearly defined. The environmental groups acknowledged the importance of grid reliability but said EPA must clearly define the conditions that would warrant the engines' use.

“The EPA is particularly seeking comment on whether the criteria could be more clearly defined to eliminate any ambiguity regarding the situations under which engines can operate and to further limit the operation to situations where the reliability of the local system is threatened,” the EPA notice said.

EPA will accept public comments through Nov. 4 at http://www.regulations.gov in Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0708.

 


EPA's June 28 letters granting reconsideration are available at http://op.bna.com/fcr.nsf/r?Open=jcos-999nt7.

For additional information, contact Melanie King in the EPA Sector Policies and Programs Division at (919) 541-2469 or king.melanie@epa.gov.