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EPA issues first Texas Greenhouse Gas Permit

According to the Texas Energy Report, the EPA has issued its first greenhouse gas permit in Texas with the TCEQ refusing to issue permits to LCRA or others

The Lower Colorado River Authority received the first Texas Greenhouse Gas permit as it upgrades a 37-year-old generating unit in Llano County to a more efficient natural gas-powered unit, federal environmental regulators announced Thursday.

LCRA, which is making improvements to its Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant, is the first company in Texas to complete a greenhouse gas permit application and obtain the final permit, a process that took about eight months, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The LCRA plant will use improved environmental controls and install modern high efficiency equipment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz. “LCRA is leading the way by providing Texans an efficient and reliable source of clean power.”

EPA granted the first Texas greenhouse gas permit and is reviewing 10 others for Texas companies. Under EPA’s final national regulations, projects beginning on Jan. 2, 2011 that “increase greenhouse gas emissions substantially” require the air permits.

While the EPA said it thinks states are “best equipped” to oversee the permitting process, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has refused to do so.

In an Aug. 2, 2010 letter to the EPA, the Texas Attorney General and TCEQ explained, “The State of Texas does not believe that EPA’s suggested approach comports with the rule of law” and that would “preclude TCEQ from declaring itself ready to require permits for greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources as you request.”

Under the LCRA permit, the electric cooperative plans to replace an old 440-megawatt electric generating boiler with a new, 590-megwatt combined cycle gas-fired plant.

“We appreciate EPA’s work on our project,” said LCRA General Manager Becky Motal. “The region will benefit from the latest environmental controls and our customers will benefit from our ability to better manage costs with a plant that will use about 35 to 40 percent less fuel than traditional gas-fired plants.”

The TCEQ released a statement saying it is pleased LCRA’s project is morning forward, but “we see no need for – or any environmental benefit from – EPA’s greenhouse gas permit. The TCEQ authorized the project on Sept. 1, 2011 after careful review that determined the permit was protective of the environment and fully compliant with all state environmental regulations.”

TCEQ’s greenhouse gas letter to the EPA is here.

EPA’s letter to permit holders and the public is here.