Final Rule Sets Standards for Gas Samples Used to Calibrate Power Plant Monitors

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Power plants that participate in emissions trading programs will have to purchase gas samples used to calibrate monitors only from approved vendors under a final Environmental Protection Agency rule published March 28 in the Federal Register (76 Fed. Reg. 17,288).

The rule also sets competency standards for the testing bodies that verify the accuracy of the monitoring equipment.

The final rule, which amends 40 C.F.R. Parts 72 and 75, comes after a power plant trade group challenged a 2008 rule that set continuous emissions monitoring requirements for power plants participating in emissions trading programs. EPA proposed the rule in June 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 33,392).

Many power plants that participate in trading programs such as the NOX Budget Trading Program, the Acid Rain Program, and the Clean Air Interstate Rule are required to use continuous emissions monitors to track their pollutant emissions. To verify that monitors are working properly, the power plants are required to periodically test the monitors using gas samples whose mixture of pollutants is known in advance.

The final rule requires those samples to be purchased from certified vendors participating in EPA's Protocol Gas Verification Program. Gas sample suppliers will be audited annually to ensure that the samples meet the required standards.

Emissions Testing Bodies, Mercury.

The rule also sets minimum competency for Air Emissions Testing Bodies, which perform the periodic audits of continuous emissions monitoring systems. It requires the people performing the tests to be familiar with the required testing methods.

The rule also removes monitoring requirements for mercury emissions after EPA's Clean Air Mercury Rule was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2008 (New Jersey v. EPA, 517 F. 3d 574, 65 ERC 1993 (D.C. Cir. 2008); 39 ER 301, 2/15/08).

EPA set the continuous emissions monitoring requirements for power plants participating in emissions trading programs in a 2008 rule (73 Fed. Reg. 4312; 39 ER 149, 1/25/08).

The Utility Air Regulatory Group, a power plant trade group, sued EPA over the requirements, arguing they had not been properly promulgated (Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, D.C. Cir. No. 08-1127, status report filed 2/22/11)

That case has been held in abeyance while EPA reconsidered the rule.

The power plants argued the rule held them responsible for the quality of the calibration gases they purchased, something beyond their control.

By Andrew Childers