Thursday, January 20, 2011

How the Ohio EPA Helped Polluters Avoid Stricter Laws

Posted By on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 4:15 PM

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In November and December, the Ohio EPA helped five of the state’s industrial plants avoid stringent greenhouse gas rules that took effect January 2. One was the Killen plant owned by Dayton Power & Light. Scene obtained internal EPA e-mails outlining the strategy.

“I want to give you guys a heads up on some permit hearings we are going to need. These are all for permits that need to be final before the end of the year in order to avoid the uncertainties associated with new greenhouse gas regulations,” wrote Mike Hopkins, the assistant chief of permitting for the Ohio EPA’s air pollution control division, in a November 3 e-mail to Carol Hester, chief of the EPA’s public interest center.

Two days later, permitting manager Andrew Hall sent the following e-mail to Cindy Charles, director of the local air pollution agency near the Killen plant in southern Ohio:

“This is great news. And with that great news we are planning for a Monday 11/8/10 draft permit issuance to beat the year-end deadline for DP&L to avoid GHG requirements.”

Other projects Hopkins directed EPA staff to push through the hearing and permitting process were two Timken applications to burn tires and increase steel production, a Campbell Soup Company gas boiler, and an application for General Motors’ casting plant in Defiance. All of the expedited permits were approved in time.

The EPA does have an official “rush” list for companies needing permits fast in order to avoid additional costs that could result from a permitting delay. When questioned, Hopkins said none of the companies he mentioned in the e-mail requested rush processing.

“The U.S. EPA had not given any guidance on it,” Hopkins said of the new emissions rules. “We identified them as companies that might be affected [by the new greenhouse gas regulations]. In the case of DP&L, it may have been, it may not have been. It was not entirely clear because of uncertainties.”

Referring to the e-mail from Hall to Charles, he said, “The enthusiasm there had more to do with [the fact] it would have taken a lot of work to figure out what needed to be done.”

Permits issued after January 2 would require companies making significant modifications to a pollution-emitting plant to estimate and track their carbon dioxide emissions. Depending on plant size and carbon dioxide emission rates, facilities seeking air permits may be required to use more extensive — and expensive — air-quality control technology to limit those emissions. — Maude Campbell

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