Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action Files Suit for Clean Air

To protect clean air in the Front Range, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action filed suit today against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its failure to overturn a state-issued air pollution permit for Fort Saint Vrain Station, a massive power plant owned by Xcel that is also a significant source of smog forming pollution.

According to the state of Colorado, the Fort Saint Vrain Station, which is near the town of Platteville in Weld County, burns natural gas and releases over 5 million pounds of smog forming pollution a year, including 1,223 tons of nitrogen oxides, 1,196 tons of carbon monoxide, and 80 tons of volatile organic compounds. The amount of nitrogen oxides released is equivalent to the amount released by over 64,000 cars each driven 12,500 miles a year (according to the EPA a car releases 38.2 pounds of nitrogen oxide a year).

The power plant also releases over 34,000 pounds of toxic air pollutants, including over 12,000 pounds of formaldehyde and 440 pounds of benzene. Formaldehyde is identified as a known carcinogen by the National Cancer Institute. Benzene can cause leukemia.

At issue with the permit is that it fails to limit emissions of smog forming pollution and toxic air pollutants, and fails to require monitoring that protects human health. Although Xcel agreed to use best available control technology to reduce nitrogen oxide pollution from one of its turbines, the permit fails to require this. The permit also allows Xcel to use emission factors to measure volatile organic compound emissions, despite the fact that those emission factors have not been approved for use by the state of Colorado.

The permit was issued to the power plant under Title V of the Clean Air Act, which governs the issuance of “operating permits.” Operating permits are required to set forth measures that ensure pollution limits are met and human health is protected. They also impose strict monitoring requirements.

Permits under Title V are issued by states, but citizens can petition the EPA to object to them. In July of 2005, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action founder and director Jeremy Nichols petitioned the EPA to overturn the pollution permit for the Fort Saint Vrain Station. By law, the EPA was required to grant or deny the petition within 60 days. More than a year later, the EPA has yet to respond. Today’s lawsuit, which was filed against the EPA Administrator in Washington, D.C., challenges the EPA’s failure to respond to the petition.


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