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Lignite Energy Council v. EPA

Citation: 30 ELR 20279
No. No. 98-1525, 198 F.3d 930/49 ELR 1682/(D.C. Cir., 12/21/1999)

The court holds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not exceed its discretion under § 111 of the Clean Air Act (CAA) in promulgating new source performance standards (NSPS) for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from utility and industrial boilers. The court, therefore, denies an energy council's petition to review the standards. EPA lowered the NOx NSPS based on its determination that the use of selective catalytic reduction (SCR) in combination with combustion control technologies represented the best demonstrated system for reducing emissions under CAA § 111.

The court first holds that in light of EPA's unchallenged findings showing that the new standards will only modestly increase the cost of producing electricity in newly constructed boilers, EPA did not exceed its considerable discretion under CAA § 111 in concluding that the use of SCR was the best demonstrated system. The court also holds that it was within EPA's discretion to issue uniform standards for all utility boilers, rather than adhering to its past practice of setting a range of standards based on boiler and fuel type. EPA's change to uniform standards is justified by SCR's performance characteristics. The court next holds that it was reasonable for EPA to extrapolate from its studies of utility boilers in setting an SCR-based NSPS for coal-fired industrial boilers. EPA demonstrated that SCR can be successfully applied to coal-fired utility boilers under a wide range of operating conditions, including those analogous to the load cycles of industrial boilers. The court then holds that the industrial boiler standard is not unreasonable as applied to combination boilers burning coal simultaneously with other fuels with lower NOx emissions characteristics. Last, the court holds that in light of the difficulties that would attend calculating the useful energy of steam heat produced by cogeneration facilities on a unit-by-unit basis, EPA's decision to assign a 50-percent credit for steam energy when determining a cogeneration unit's output is acceptable.

Counsel for Petitioners
F. William Brownell
Hunton & Williams
1900 K St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 955-1500

Counsel for Respondent
Wendy L. Blake
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before Edwards, Silberman, and Henderson, JJ.