August 10, 2015
Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued long awaited Greenhouse Gas (GHG) rules for newly constructed power plants. The agency specifically addressed the proposed Plant Washington, and refused to give it a “pass” on carbon emission standards for new sources.
The new standards rely on partial capture and storage of carbon dioxide emissions. Plant Washington project spokesman Dean Alford has said that such a standard will result in cancellation of the coal-fired project because it was not designed to meet the standard.
The EPA pointed out that Plant Washington’s developer hadn’t provided the necessary documentation showing that the project had in fact commenced construction and therefore should be considered an existing facility not subject to the carbon emissions standards for new sources. The agency said it is “unaware of any physical construction that has taken place at the proposed Plant Washington site,” and noted that a recent audit of the project had described it as “dormant.”
In a draft of the standards issued last year, EPA discussed the status of Plant Washington and another proposed coal-fired power plant in Kansas. Based on the developers’ assertions that those projects had commenced construction, EPA said it appeared they were existing sources that would not be subject to the new standards. If it turned out that the projects had not commenced construction, and were thus new sources, EPA said it would consider giving them a special standard based on the unique circumstance that both had been permitted when the new source rule was proposed.
In the final rule issued last week, EPA said that it now “appears that these sources have not commenced construction … and therefore would likely be new sources should they actually be constructed.” EPA noted, among other things, that in October 2014, Plant Washington was given an 18-month air permit extension by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. EPA said it appears that the possibility of Plant Washington being built and operating is “too remote” to warrant an exemption from the new carbon standards.
But EPA also declined to specify any special standard that might apply to Plant Washington and the Kansas project given the likelihood that those facilities “may never actually be fully built and operated.”
The EPA ultimately left it to Plant Washington’s developer, Power4Georgians LLC (“P4G”), to seek a formal determination as to the project’s status before EPA will take any further action. P4G previously sought such an “applicability determination” from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, but P4G withdrew the request before EPD acted and instead sought an extension of its deadline to construct under its state-issued air permit.
Plant Washington has eight months left under its permit extension from the state but there is no sign that the project is moving forward. The facility’s water discharge permit expired in March of this year. P4G failed to seek renewal of the permit prior to the deadline, prompting EPD to fine P4G. A resulting consent order required P4G to file a permit renewal application within 30 days, but there is no indication it has done so.
“Plant Washington has no customers, no financing for construction, and the EPA has now properly refused to exempt this large proposed source of carbon pollution from standards designed to limit that pollution,” said Katherine Cummings of the Fall-Line Alliance for Clean Environment. “The future for this boondoggle plant is no brighter than it was over 8.5 years ago when it was announced. If P4G returns for another permit extension next year, the state would be wise to tell him that the game clock has run out, and there will be no more overtime and extensions.”
August 10, 2015