First Greenhouse Gas Permit in Texas Approved by EPA for Gas-Fired Power Plant

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AUSTIN, Texas—The Environmental Protection Agency Nov. 10 issued the first greenhouse gas emissions permit in Texas since it took over permitting authority after the state refused to implement the federal greenhouse gas emissions program.

The prevention of significant deterioration permit covers a new 590-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas-fired unit at the Lower Colorado River Authority Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant in Llano County, 50 miles northwest of Austin.

The new plant would replace a 37-year-old 440-megawatt gas-fired boiler that has not been used to full capacity in recent years.

Clara Tuma, spokeswoman for the Lower Colorado River Authority, said construction of the plant will begin in 2012, and the authority plans to have it online by 2014. The application for the permit was submitted in March.

Emissions Limits Set for New Equipment.

The authority was required to obtain a permit because it is expected to increase the amount of carbon dioxide emissions even though the new equipment will be more efficient than the equipment at the old unit.

The old unit had the capacity to generate 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, but because it was only operating at about 20 percent of capacity, it was emitting 500,000 tons per year, Meleah Geertsma of the Natural Resources Defense Council told BNA Nov. 10.

The permit sets a limit for the new facility of 1.8 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. It also sets limits during startup and shut down operations and for auxiliary combustion equipment and fugitive emissions.

Geertsma said it was not clear from the permit whether the new facility will be run at full capacity. She noted that the application indicated that using carbon capture and sequestration would not be cost-effective. EPA did not push the river authority to do more than what was proposed in the application, she said.

The NRDC has not taken a position on the facility, according to Geertsma.

Plant to Be More Efficient.

Tuma said that a combined-cycle power plant combines a gas turbine system and a steam cycle system, allowing the plant to use 30-40 percent less fuel and produce fewer emissions per unit of power. The new plant will generate about half the emissions per megawatt as the old one.

According to EPA, the plant also will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions and will have advance environmental monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz praised the Lower Colorado River Authority for “leading the way by providing Texans an efficient and reliable source of clean power.”

EPA's greenhouse gas permitting rules took effect Jan. 2 under the prevention of signification deterioration provisions of the Clean Air Act. PSD requires new and modified sources to obtain permits for emissions of regulated air pollutants and to control those emissions using best available control technology, determined individually for each source.

Texas Refuses to Issue Permits.

EPA is issuing permits in Texas because the state refused to implement a greenhouse gas permitting process. It is the only state to refuse to update its state implementation plan to include greenhouse gas regulations in its PSD requirements. The state and other groups are challenging the EPA rules in court.

EPA is reviewing 10 other applications for greenhouse gas permits in Texas.

By Nancy J. Moore

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