EPA agrees to reconsider smog limits for new gas power plants

Source: By Reuters • Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2023

A flare burns off excess gas from a gas plant in the Permian Basin in Loving County
A flare burns off excess gas from a gas plant in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, U.S., November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant

(Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to consider new nationwide rules to cut smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions from new gas power plants, according to a proposed settlement with environmental groups filed Tuesday in California federal court.

The settlement, filed in a San Francisco court in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, comes after the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund sued the agency last year. They claimed then the EPA has a duty to review new power plant emission limits every eight years under the Clean Air Act, but hadn’t updated limits for nitrogen oxides since 2006.

The agency, which did not admit fault in the proposed settlement, and representatives for the environmental groups did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Nitrogen oxides are “poisonous, highly reactive gasses” that mix with other chemicals in the air to form ozone and smog and are associated with heart and lung diseases, according to the EPA.

The agreement, which must be approved by a judge, would require the EPA to consider and potentially propose new limits for the gases from new gas-powered power plants by November 2024. If it proposes new limits, the agency would have one year to finalize those rules.

The plaintiffs said in their December lawsuit that new technologies now make stricter limits feasible for gas-powered plants, which the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration expects to grow in number over the next decade.

In March, the EPA finalized a new rule requiring existing power plants in 25 states to meet tougher nitrogen oxide emissions standards.

The EPA estimated that the final rule would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 70,000 tonnes during the 2026 ozone season compared to a business-as-usual scenario. It would also result in an annual reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 16 million tonnes.

The case is Environmental Defense Fund v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, United States District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:22-cv-7731

For the environmental groups: Reed Zars and George Hays

For the EPA: Alexander Purpuro of the U.S. Department of Justice

Read more:

EPA smog limits for new power plants outdated and inadequate – lawsuit

US EPA finalizes rule to tackle interstate smog

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