Agency objects to Greenidge start process
DRESDEN--The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formally objected to a Title V air permit prepared by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The agency claimed the Greenidge power plant was permanently shut down and must be treated as a new source for permitting, rather than as an existing power plant. They stated the DEC failed to incorporate prior comments to this effect from the EPA. The DEC now has 90 days to revise the permit, or the EPA can deny it completely. The EPA wrote a letter to DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos Monday, Dec. 7 regarding the plant's status.
Greenidge initially announced their plans to repower the Dresden plant in August of 2015. The former coal-fired power plant was originally built in 1937 before going offline in 2011. The current proposal involves converting the facility to natural gas, using biomass and fuel oil as intermediary fuels. It also includes a 4.5 mile pipeline that is proposed through Yates County along the Keuka Lake Outlet to connect the power plant to the Empire Connector gas pipeline.
"By concluding that the facility will not be a new source upon reactivation, [the] NYSDEC failed to incorporate into the proposed Title V permit applicable requirements under the Clean Air Act's prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) program and implementing regulations as approved into New York's State Implementation Plan," EPA Region 2 Regional Administrator Judith Enck wrote to the DEC.
More than 170 people attended the Public Service Commission's public comment session in Dresden Nov. 4. The majority of comments were against the repowering of the plant, although Dresden Mayor Bill Hall previously noted many of those who spoke were from outside the village. He claimed many village residents were in support of the restart to bring back the jobs at the facility, as well as to put the building back on the tax rolls. The Yates County Legislature passed resolutions in support of the restart project, while several area winery owners also wrote letters in support of Greenidge's reopening.
"We strongly disagree with the EPA's decision given that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation conducted a thorough and complete review before issuing this draft permit, concluding that Greenidge clearly meets all the federal and state standards for resuming full operation," Greenidge spokesperson Michael McKeon said. "We are currently analyzing the EPA's response to determine how best to restart the facility as soon as possible."
The Greenidge restart project also received $2 million as part of the New York State Upstate Revitalization (URI) funding, which McKeon said "underscores the critical importance of Greenidge to the current and future economic vitality of the Finger Lakes area." He claimed the project will be a catalyst for creating jobs, driving new revenue to local businesses and bringing tax dollars to the community.
"There should be no doubt; Greenidge is precisely the type of environmentally-sound facility that should be fully operational today," McKeon said. "There is a broad, bipartisan coalition of elected officials, citizens and community leaders who strongly share that view."
However, the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes previously issued similar statements to the EPA's claims, stating the facility is subject to the EPA's reactivation policy as a new source for purposes of prevention of significant deterioration.
"While we would prefer that the Greenidge plant remain closed, we are glad the EPA is committed to holding the Greenidge plant to the appropriate standards should it reopen," noted Peter Gamba, president of the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes. "Currently, its emissions are zero."
The new source review process will hold Greenidge to different requirements for emissions, needing to fully meet modern emission standards for the plant to reopen. Enck wrote the DEC must also include PSD permit conditions for carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides into the permit.
The PSD program applies to a new major source or a source making a major modification in an area where air pollution currently meets federal requirements. The program requirements include installation of the best available control technology, an air quality analysis, an additional impacts analysis and a public comment period and hearings. The additional impacts analysis assesses the impacts of air, ground, and water pollution on soils, vegetation and visibility caused by any increase in emissions of any regulated pollutant from the source or modification under review.
This also makes the plant subject to the EPA's Carbon Pollution Standards Final Rule, which regulates CO2 emissions for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants, which went into effect Oct. 23.