President Trump’s efforts at regulatory reform continued with the announcement on January 15, 2018 that the U.S. EPA would withdraw its “once in, always in” policy for classification of Major Sources of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) under section 112 of the Clean Air Act.  Newly sworn in Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Bill Wehrum, made the announcement.  Anticipating forthcoming legal challenges Mr. Wehrum stated that the revocation of the policy was “based on a plain language reading of the statute that is in line with EPA’s guidance for other portions of the Clean Air Act.”

What is a Major Source of HAPs?

Under the Clean Air Act a “Major Source” is a air pollution source that has the potential to emit of 10 tons per year of any HAP or 25 tons per year or more of any combination of HAPs. Major sources must obtain a Title V permit which is a highly complex federal permit with stringent reporting and record keeping requirements. Any source of HAPs below these thresholds is classified as an “area source” and is subject to far less regulatory requirements.

What is the “Once in, Always In” Policy?

Historically, U.S. EPA allowed sources to voluntarily limit emissions below the HAP “Major Source” thresholds through a permit (referred to as a “synthetic minor permit” because it caps emission below thresholds).  However, sources were required to cap emission with such a permit before the compliance date established under Clean Air Act regulations, specifically, standards known as Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT).  If a source couldn’t obtain a permit or limit its emissions due to production or other business needs, the source was always classified as a “major source.”  The source was not allowed to later find ways to reduce HAP emissions and be declassified as a “Major Source.”

What does U.S. EPA’s Revocation of the Policy Mean?

Under U.S. EPA’s new guidance, facilities maybe able to opt-out of the major source MACT standards and Title V permitting requirements at any time.  Sources that are currently “Major Sources” now have incentive to finds ways to control or reduce emissions to reduce their regulatory burden.

What is Likely to Happen Next?

U.S. EPA says it wants to put its latest interpretation into rules to make it harder for the next Administration to revert back to the “Once in, always in” policy.  It plans on publishing notice in the Federal Register to take comments on adoption of such a rule.

Like many of the Trump Administration’s regulatory reforms of EPA, expect the latest announcement to be challenged in the courts.

In my prior post, I discussed the recent federal court ruling with found EPA’s self-imposed stay of the Boiler MACT illegal.  Following the Court’s ruling, concern was immediately raised by industry that they would be subject to the original deadlines that appear in the 2011 rulemaking. 

Yesterday, Administrator Jackson responded to a letter from Senator Ron Wyden regarding the EPA’s position in light of the Court’s ruling:

Regarding the impact of the recent court decision, we have carefully reviewed the effect that vacating the stay may have on new and existing sources and plan to address potential impacts. Specifically, using our enforcement discretion, the EPA will issue a no action assurance letter shortly, informing sources that EPA will not enforce any of the administrative notification requirements for new or existing boilers and incinerators in the 2011 Rules for a period of time while the EPA works to take final action on the proposal to reset these dates. For existing boilers and incinerators, these administrative notification requirements are the only obligations sources would otherwise have under the 2011 Rules prior to when the EPA intends to finalize the reconsideration process.

EPA also intends to reset the compliance clock once the final rule is issued:

Finally, the EPA recognizes that industry needs sufficient time to comply with these standards. As a result, the reconsideration proposal included a provision that would set new, later deadlines for meeting the standards set forth in the reconsideration proposal. While this is subject to the public comment
process, it was the EPA’s intent in the proposed rule to allow the compliance clock to "reset" to provide the industry the full length of time – three years – provided in the Clean Air Act for compliance with the rules once they are finalized.

For a copy of Administrator Jackson’s letter to the Senator, click here

 

 

On February 11, 2011, EPA issued two rules regulating hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from thousands of industrial sources.  First, the "Boiler MACT" imposed standards on industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and process heaters.  Second, the "CISWI" imposed standards on commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators.   

Both rules were very controversial due to their wide coverage and cost of compliance.  Industry complained that EPA, on prior versions of the rules, failed to analyze real world data regarding standards.  Their failure resulted in standards that industry charged no facility had actually achieved in practice.

Environmental groups alleged that the rules were long overdue and EPA was simply delaying the rules due to pressure from industry.  When the rules were issued in February 2011, the Sierra Club filed challenged in the Court of Appeals.  EPA also announced that it was reconsidering the rules to take more time to analyze the data provided by industry during the comment period.

On May 18, 2011, two days before the rules were to take effect, EPA self-imposed a stay on the effectiveness of both rules.  EPA’s stay was referred to as its "Delay Notice."  In the federal register announcement regarding the Delay Notice, EPA said the stay would be effective until judicial review proceedings were over or it completed its reconsideration of the rules, whichever occurred earlier.

EPA said the Delay Notice was necessary in order to avoid requiring thousands of facilities to comply with standards that soon may change.  EPA argued that once facilities began making investments to meet the standards, those investments would be irreversible.

The Court did not find any of EPA’s justifications for the Delay Notice valid.  The Court even denied EPA’s request to remand the Delay Notice so that EPA could provide better justification for the action.  The Court threw out the stay and issued an order requiring EPA to take immediate action to comply with its order. (Click here for Court’s decision throwing out the stay of the Boiler MACT)

EPA had indicated it was going to complete is reconsideration by April 2012.  Therefore, it was able to delay the rules for most of the period it originally intended to complete its reconsideration.  However, now EPA will have no choice but to issue both rules.  More importantly, thousands of faculties across the country will likely be facing compliance deadlines with the clock beginning to tick this Spring.

On Monday, EPA announced it was delaying its proposed rules that would apply greenhouse gas emission standards to power plants. EPA said it would push the proposal back from July to September to allow more time to consider comments. EPA still expects to finalize the rule by May 2012.  

Its no secret that EPA regulations have been the focus of intense scrutiny due to the costs and the potential impacts on the country’s struggling economic recovery.  Over the last several months EPA has delayed rule after rule.  The delays include:

  • Greenhouse gas rules for power plants (NSPS)
  • Industrial/Commercial boiler rule (MACT)
  • Ozone Federal Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
  • Fine Particle Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

Each time EPA delays one of the major rules, it claims the delay is to consider more information or to allow for more public comment.  Yet the frequency of the announced delays coupled with the timing suggests the Obama Administration is concerned with protecting the fragile economic recovery or it is simply responding to intense political pressure.

Debate Pitting Economy Versus the Environment Intensifies

EPA’s regulatory actions are under intense pressure on Capitol Hill.  Republicans and some conservative Democrats have targeted the EPA rules, in particular those that impact power plants due to their potential to raise energy prices or de-rail the recovery. 

While the announced delays may temporarily reduce the pressure on the Agency, in reality the delays have done nothing to cool down the rhetoric used on both sides.  For example, Lisa Jackson testified before the Senate and disparaged lobbyists who had advocated against the new EPA rules:

“While Americans across the country suffer from this pollution, special interests who are trying to gut long-standing public health protections are now going so far as to claim that these pollutants aren’t even harmful. These myths are being perpetrated by some of the same lobbyists who have in the past testified before Congress about the importance of reducing mercury and particulate matter. Now on behalf of their clients, they’re saying the exact opposite.”

On the other side, AEP highlighted potential impacts to the economy last week by announcing the potential closure of a number of power plants and huge new compliance costs if the EPA rules moved forward.  AEP said it would retire nearly 6,000 megawatts (MW) of coal-fueled power generation and switch to natural gas at many of its plants at an estimated cost of $6 billion to $8 billion by the end of the decade.This from a Press Release issued by AEP:

"We have worked for months to develop a compliance plan that will mitigate the impact of these rules for our customers and preserve jobs, but because of the unrealistic compliance timelines in the EPA proposals, we will have to prematurely shut down nearly 25 percent of our current coal-fueled generating capacity, cut hundreds of good power plant jobs, and invest billions of dollars in capital to retire, retrofit and replace coal-fueled power plants. The sudden increase in electricity rates and impacts on state economies will be significant at a time when people and states are still struggling,” said Michael G. Morris, AEP chairman and chief executive officer.

EPA Delays Are Simply a Pyrrhic Victory

Each time EPA announces a delay, the Agency claims it will take a second look at its proposals.  Yet, EPA seems very unlikely to make any fundamental changes.  While some may view the announced delays as victories, it is only so long before either the rules will be released by EPA or  EPA will be compelled by the courts to act. 

A popular political strategy has been to attack the science behind EPA’s proposals in hopes of deflecting the proposal entirely.  This "all or nothing" approach is unlikely to ultimately succeed given the 60 votes needed in the Senate to make changes to the statutes that shape the rules. 

Rather than challenge the science in hopes of avoiding regulations altogether, it would be good to see meaningful policy discussion around the regulatory approach behind these major proposals:

  1. Ozone and Fine Particle-  Time frames for compliance need to be reasonable and should be properly coordinated with existing federal rules that will drive down emissions.  Also, as our air gets cleaner, improvements become more difficult.  Do we cross a threshold where costs should be part of the equation in setting standards? 
  2. Greenhouse gas–  Application of the New Source Review program to greenhouse gas emissions is a recipe for disaster.  While Cap and Trade became a dirty word, it offered a far more flexible approach than command and control regulations.
  3. Commercial/Industrial Boilers-  EPA’s method for establishing the standards was based upon cherry picking the best emission rates for each individual pollutant from units across the country.  A real effort needs to be made at looking at what is realistically achievable.

Unfortunately, meaningful discussion seems unlikely in today’s political environment. 

On March 21, 2011, U.S. EPA issued final air toxic standards for industrial and commercial boilers.  The rules regulated emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) from industrial, commercial, and institutional boilers and process heaters located at major sources of HAP emissions (the "Major Source Boiler MACT").  The EPA also issued final rules regulating emissions from commercial and industrial solid waste incineration units (the "CISWI Rule"). 

While the rules were issued, EPA also announced that it would reconsider the rules to address certain technical issues.  Some of those technical issuesunder EPA review include:

  • Revising major subcategories in the major source rule;
  • Establishing work practice standards for limited use major source boilers;
  • Standards for biomass and oil-fired source boilers based on available control technology; and
  • Providing an affirmative defense for malfunction events.

The effective date for each of the new rules was supposed to be May 20th.  However, the industry has provided significant input that the standards are not realistic and will be too costly. A number of business associations filed motions for reconsideration and requested a stay of the effective date while EPA completed its reconsideration of the rules.

Yesterday, EPA announced it  has issued a temporary stay of their effectiveness and will seek comments through July 15, 2011. 

Thus, the long and winding road of this rule package just got a little longer.  The Agency consistently seems to miss the mark necessitating pulling back from its proposals and gathering more data. 

Below is a portion of U.S. EPA’s announcement:

Following the April 2010 proposals, the agency received more than 4,800 comments from businesses and communities, including a significant amount of information that industry had not provided prior to the proposals. Based on this input, EPA made extensive revisions to the standards, and in December 2010 requested additional time for review to ensure the public’s input was fully addressed. The court only granted EPA 30 days, resulting in the February 2011 final rules. The agency is reconsidering the standards because the public did not have sufficient opportunity to comment on these changes, and, as a result, further public review and feedback is needed.

EPA will accept additional data and information on these standards until July 15, 2011.

 

This week U.S. EPA finalized its long awaited rule making establishing air emission standards for industrial and commercial boilers.  The standards are to reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) by requiring sources to install or meet of Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT).

Controversial Rulemaking Process Comes to an End

EPA proposed MACT standards in spring of 2010 which were intended to replace previous rules that had been vacated by the D.C. Court of Appeals.  The spring proposal was met with harsh criticism from business interests who argued the standards were based on incomplete or inaccurate facts.  The business community argued that the poorly supported standards would result in huge costs.  In response, businesses poured in thousands and thousands of comments and supplied data supporting their arguments.

Reaction to the New Standards

Generally, most recognize the final rules are a huge improvement over the Spring 2010 proposal.  By some estimates, the final rules will cost about $1.8 billion less per year than the rules that were proposed last spring. 

However, there is still concern that the standards don’t provide needed flexibility.

“Despite the best efforts by the administration and [EPA], what we are left with is a rule that in spirit is a very positive development,” said Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. “I think a number of important changes were made. But I think it remains problematic.” (click here for more information on the Biomass Industry’s reaction to boiler MACT rules)

Some environmental groups are complimenting  EPA’s efforts to balance business concerns with protecting the environment.  Perhaps there is growing recognition that EPA’s regulations are under assault and there is a need for more balanced proposals. (see, NY Times Article on Boiler MACT Rules

"It appears that EPA has addressed many of the industry complaints while still putting out standards that would bring significant public health benefits," said Frank O’Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. "Let’s hope that EPA stands its ground when industries argue for further changes. "

Some appear ready to conclude that this proposal shows the President Obama is listening to concerns regarding the price of EPA regulations and will scale back earlier proposals.  This seems to be perhaps overreaching.  It is more likely that the business community did an excellent job providing EPA good data to demonstrate their earlier proposal was flawed.  No doubt the pressure from the business community helped EPA to take a close look at that data.

Below is some general information regarding the requirements in the new rule.

Boilers Are Covered?

  • Boilers that emit or have the potential to emit more than 10 tons per year (tpy) of a single HAP or more than 25 tpy of a combination of HAPs
  • Boilers that burn coal, oil, or biomass, or non-waste materials.  It excludes boilers that burn solid waste.
  • Different requirements apply to boilers classified as large boilers (10 million BTU per hour or greater) versus small boilers (less than 10 million BTU)
  • HAPs include mercury, lead, dioxin, furans, formaldehyde and hydrochloric acid

What Requirements Apply?

The rule establishes standards for emissions of mercury, particulate matter (PM)
(as a surrogate for non-mercury metals), and carbon monoxide (CO) (as a surrogate for
organic air toxics)

New Boilers

  • Coal-fired boilers, with heat input equal or greater than 10 million Btu per hour, are required to meet emission limits for mercury, PM, and CO.
  • Biomass and oil-fired boilers, with heat input equal or greater than 10 million Btu per
    hour, must meet emission limits for PM
  •  Boilers with heat input less than 10 million Btu per hour must perform a boiler tuneup
    every two years.

Existing Boilers

  • Coal-fired boilers, with heat input equal or greater than 10 million Btu per hour, are required to meet emission limits for mercury and CO.
  • Biomass boilers, oil-fired boilers, and small coal-fired boilers are not required to meet
    emission limits. They are required to meet a work practice standard or a management
    practice by performing a boiler tune-up every 2 years.
  • All area source facilities with large boilers are required to conduct an energy
    assessment to identify cost-effective energy conservation measures.

Reaction to Revised Rules

Boiler MACT Rules-  On December 7th, EPA filed a motion with the Court requesting more time in order to re-propose the Boiler MACT rules and allow for public comment.  In EPA’s motion to the Court, EPA sets forth following timetable if its motion is granted to move impending January deadline is moved to April: it will publish revised proposals no later than June 1, 2011, and promulgate the final emission standards no later than April 13, 2002. 

EPA states that more time is needed because significant issues with the proposed standards were raised in the public comment period and it needs more time to evaluate the technical merits of those comments.  This from EPA’s motion:

As evidenced by the number of comments, which include a substantial amount of
additional new data, the major source boilers, area source boilers, and CISWI rules will have far reaching effects. Estimates of the monetized value of the public health benefits for all three rules combined range from $18 billion and $44 billion. The economic impacts of implementation of these standards will also be significant and vary by rule. For example, the nation-wide capital cost for the proposed major source boilers rule was estimated to be $9.5 billion in the year 2013, with a total national annual cost of $2.9 billion in the year 2013. The major source and area source boilers rules are expected to apply at almost 200,000 boilers at over 90,000 facilities. On balance, given the broad impact these rules will have, EPA believes that the overall public interest is best served by allowing EPA to re-propose the rules so that the Agency will be able to issue emission standards that are based upon a thorough consideration of all available data and reduce potential litigation risks
.

Many are very relieved that EPA has decided to take a second look at its proposed standards.  The rules have wide ranging applicability and huge costs associated with them.

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Climate Change Nuisance Case-  The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of Second Circuit’s decision in American Electric Power v. Connecticut.  The lower court allowed several states, municipalities, and environmental groups to pursue a federal public nuisance action against a group of electric power producers for their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). 

The issue of GHG emission contributing to climate change is global issue with millions of sources contributing.  The Court will examine how much a single subset of sources should be exposed to liability for their contribution to the issue.  

The lower court found the Plaintiffs showed the requisite grounds to bring the suit.  The Court found plaintiffs properly identified an injury, presented causation and redressability that should allow the suit to go forward.   The Supreme Court granted the petition to hear the appeal to review this determination.

Also at issue is whether federal nuisance actions have been displaced by U.S. EPA’s recent promulgation of climate change regulations (monitoring, Endangerment Finding, Light-Duty Vehicle Rule, Tailoring Rule).  Federal nuisance actions are no longer available if it is determined that their is sufficient federal action to address the issue. 

If the Court finds federal nuisance action has been displaced by EPA’s regulations, this may prove to by a phyrric victory for some.  Presumably, federal nuisance is only displaced so long as those regulation remain in place.  What should happen if congressional action delays implementation or litigation successfully overturns the Endangerment Finding?

Regardless, this will be a fascinating case to follow next year.

On June 4, 2010, U.S. EPA released its much anticipated proposed standards for industrial boilers to reduce hazardous air pollutants ("HAPs").   Since their release, EPA has faced an outcry that the proposed standards are "fundamentally flawed" or "unachievable."

So what is the controversy?

EPA’s boiler standards are supposed to reflect the application of the maximum achievable control technology (“MACT”). 

What is MACT?

MACT requires the maximum reduction of hazardous emissions, taking cost and feasibility into account.  The MACT must not be less than the average emission level achieved by controls on the best performing 12 percent of existing sources, by category of industrial and utility sources.

I highlighted a couple key terms in U.S. EPA’s definition. 

Cost and Feasibility-  Unlike other EPA standards, cost and feasibility in achieving the standards are relevant.  Many argue cost of compliance with proposed standards will be dramatically too high.

Best Performing 12%-  As discussed below, many assert EPA’s methodology for developing the top 12% performing sources is fundamentally flawed.  They assert EPA simply "cherry picked" certain sources and unfairly based its limits on too small of a data pool.

Controversy Builds

On August 2nd, 100 members of Congress submitted a letter to Administrator Jackson asking EPA reconsider its proposed boiler MACT standards:

EPA should use a method to set emission standards that is based on what real world best performing units can achieve.  EPA should not ignore biases in its emissions database, the practical capabilities of controls or the variability in operations, fuels and testing performance across many regulated sectors.

Impact on Biomass Industry

One group strongly opposing EPA is proposal is the biomass industry which believes the proposal unfairly lumps biomass in with all other fuels.  The biomass industry has indicated the standards, if finalized, could prevent the development of additional biomass sources.  The National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) provides the following description of EPA’s flawed MACT methodology:

EPA explains that “[f]or each pollutant, we calculated the MACT floor for a subcategory of sources by ranking all the available emissions data from units within the subcategory from lowest emissions to highest emissions, and then taking the numerical average of the test results from the best performing (lowest emitting) 12 percent of sources.” 75 Fed. Reg. at 32019.This “pollutant-by-pollutant ” approach to determining MACT is not appropriate because it results in standards that do not reflect the performance of the best performing boilers for any fuel source. 

The CAA requires that EPA set standards based on the performance of actual
“sources.”
Yet EPA’s analysis does not reflect the performance of any actual sources. Instead, it is a compilation of the best data, for each pollutant, regardless of which source the data came from. As a result, the proposed rule’s limits are unnecessarily stringent. They do not reflect the variability that occurs in real-world.

There is no denying EPA failed to look at fuel types when establishing standards.  Rather, EPA went pollutant by pollutant and looked for the smallest emissions without considering the fuel being used in the boiler.

Genreal Industry Concerns

The biomass industry is just one of many industry sectors strongly opposing the rules.  The American Chemistry Council described the rules as "fundamentally flawed" in their comments:

“EPA’s faulty methodology begins with pollutant-by-pollutant analyses that select a different set of ‘best performing sources’ for each pollutant. In other words, EPA ‘cherry picks’ the best data in setting each standard, without regard for sources. The result is a set of standards achieved by a hypothetical set of ‘best performing’ sources able to maximize emission reductions for each hazardous air pollutant (HAP), rather than standards representative of actual performance of real sources. EPA’s approach produces unachievable standards."

How is EPA cherry picking its data?  Industry says EPA uses a limited data set of emissions from sources in establishing the standards. EPA has failed to test enough sources to truly reflect each category of sources.  Without a full or adequate data set, EPA is skewing the top 12% of best performing sources. It really becomes the top 12% of sources EPA tested, which can be a small percentage of boilers in use.

Furthermore, Industry argues EPA failed to account for variations critical when establishing a MACT standard.  Boilers can vary in design, pollution controls and fuels utilized. Industry argues these variations should have been considered in evaluating the top 12% performing sources.

[For more insight into industry’s general concerns here is a link to Ohio Chamber Comments]

Regulators Echo Industry Concerns

Industry is not alone in strongly criticizing EPA proposal.  Ohio EPA filed its own comments on the U.S. EPA proposed boiler MACT standards supporting the notion EPA’s methodology is flawed:

Limited Data Concerns:

[EPA’s] analysis seems to only utilize emission performance data from a limited number of sources and in some cases as few as one or two sources.  At a minimum a NESHAP standard needs to be based on the performance of five sources or all sources if fewer than five in a category.

Emission Standard Methodology

The emission limits proposed in the rule seem to be based on the lowest demonstrated emission rates within a source category (based on a limited number of sources) and does not directly evaluate control efficiency of equipment.  Using the emission rate approach may not identify the sources demonstrating the highest control efficiencies, but rather may simply reflect low fuel content of the pollutants.  In this case, resulting emission limits can be more stringent than achievable for sources utilizing certain fuels.

Impact on Fuel Types

EPA’s approach may be eliminating certain fuels from use in industrial boilers.  For example, midwest coal with higher sulfur or mercury content.  Or in the case of biomass, wood feed stocks that have already have lower hydrogen chloride (HCL) content, may not be able to remove additional quantities to achieve the low standards EPA is proposing.

Conclusion

EPA’s rule impacts such a huge portion of industry and commercial operations.  It should be carefully crafting a set of standards that are achieveable as well as flexible. Two final points:

  •  Not all pollution controls are appropriate for every sized boiler;
  • Restricting fuel types by establishing standards that discount pollutant content of those fuels does not reflect "real world" practices that NESHAP standards are intended to reflect.

(Photo:  U.S. EPA website)

All the recent climate change related litigation has overshadowed major activity around control of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from coal plants.  Mercury is one such HAP.  Back in February 8, 2008  in New Jersey v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out U.S. EPA’s cap and trade program for mercury, known as the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR).  

EPA’s decision to create a cap and trade program for mercury was very controversial.  Those opposed said cap and trade was not meant to control toxic pollutants like mercury.  In response, a number of states rejected the CAMR rule and adopted state programs that established control requirements for every coal plant within their borders.

While the federal court declared CAMR illegal, it also made an important determination as it relates to control of HAPs from coal plants.  In order to create the cap and trade program, the Bush Administration had to undue the efforts of the Clinton Administration to establish facility specific control standards for coal plants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act. 

In December 2000, the Clinton EPA decided to list electric generating units (EGUs) under section 112.  By listing this source category under Section 112, all existing and new plants must meet Maximum Available Control Technology Standards (MACT) for controlling emissions of HAPs.  MACT is emission controls equal to the "average emission limitation achieved by the best performing 12 percent of the existing sources."

In order to create its cap and trade program, the Bush Administration tried to de-list EGUs as a source category regulated under Section 112.  The federal court in New Jersey v. EPA found this action to be illegal.  This means that EPA must move forward with rules establishing a MACT standard for EGUs.  To date, EPA has failed to take such action.  As reported in the Charleston Gazette this week, groups have sued EPA to compel such action

A coalition of environmental groups has filed a lawsuit trying to force the federal government to comply with a 6-year-old mandate to reduce toxic chemical emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The suit, filed Thursday in federal court in Washington, asks for a court order requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set limits for mercury and dozens of other hazardous air pollutants.

The new lawsuit follows a major decision by a federal court in North Carolina (Southern Alliance for Clean Energy v. Duke) that invalidated a permit for construction of a new coal plant because the permit failed to show compliance with MACT for HAPs.  The main issue in the case was whether the MACT standards apply to the on-going construction of a coal plant following the New Jersey decision.  Notably, the Court ruled that MACT did apply even though the permit was issued and construction had already began on the new source.

While mercury and other HAPs won’t be controlled from existing plants until EPA finalizes its MACT standards for EGUs, at least one federal court has said new plants must meet the yet to be established standard.  This presents another avenue for environmentalists to challenge air permits for coal plants, even permits issued prior to the February 8, 2008 decision.