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In re La Paloma Energy Center, LLC

Case Number:CAA Appeal No. 13-10
ELR Citation:44 ELR 41369

Sierra Club petitions the Environmental Appeals Board (“Board”) to review a greenhouse gas (“GHG”) prevention of significant deterioration permit that Region 6 (“Region”) of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) issued to the La Paloma Energy Center, LLC (“LPEC”) pursuant to Clean Air Act §165, 42 U.S.C. §7475. The permit authorizes LPEC to construct and operate a 637- to 735-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Harlingen, Texas. Sierra Club challenges the permit’s emission limits for greenhouse gases on two grounds, claiming that the Region clearly erred or abused its discretion (1) by failing to base the permitted GHG emission limits for the combined cycle natural gas-fired combustion turbines that will be used at this facility on the energy efficiency of the most efficient of the three turbine models that LPEC identified for potential use at this facility, and (2) by declining to require LPEC to consider adding a solar thermal energy component to the proposed facility in order to further reduce GHG emissions because the Region incorrectly concluded that solar technology would “redefine the source.”

Held: The Board denies the petition for review of the Region’s final permit decision.

1) Issue Concerning the Permit’s GHG Emission Limits for the Combustion Turbines
Sierra Club has failed to demonstrate that the Region clearly erred or abused its discretion in establishing the GHG permit limits for the combustion turbines at the proposed LPEC facility. The Board finds no support in EPA’s BACT guidance for Sierra Club’s position that the three specific turbine models proposed by LPEC must be identified as separate control technologies throughout the Region’s five-step analysis. The Region had a rational basis for its determinations that all three of the permitted turbine models are comparably efficient on a performance basis, that the assigned BACT limits are substantially equivalent except for  marginal differences attributable to capacity, and that the GHG emission limits for all three turbine models represent BACT for highly efficient combined cycle combustion turbines.

(2) Issue Concerning Region’s Conclusion That Solar Technology Would “Redefine the Source”
Sierra Club has failed to demonstrate that the Region abused its discretion in concluding that adding solar technology to this facility would “redefine the source.” Under the circumstances of this case, the business purposes and site-specific constraints described in the administrative record support the Region’s conclusion that the addition of supplemental solar power to this facility would constitute redesign of the source.