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Dec Revises Rules on Siting of Power Plants

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) adopted last Thursday, June 28, regulations requiring new or expanding electric generating facilities in New York to evaluate the potential disproportionate impacts on nearby environmental justice communities, Commissioner Joe Martens announced.

The regulations are the first in the country to require an environmental justice analysis in the siting of major electric generating facilities.

“[The] regulations will help populations disproportionately affected by high asthma hospitalization,” Martens said. “Under DEC’s new regulations, an environmental justice analysis must be completed if a proposed electric generating facility’s potential adverse environmental and public health impacts may affect an environmental justice area.”

Additional regulations adopted by DEC limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new major electric generating facilities and certain expansions at existing electric generating facilities.

“The adoption of this regulation ensures that new and expanding power plants in the state will incorporate cleaner and more efficient technologies,” Martens said. “By preventing new high-carbon sources of energy, this performance standard will serve to further minimize the power sector’s contribution to climate change, which poses a substantial threat to public health and the environment in New York.”

The DEC adopted the regulations (6 NYCRR Part 487 and 6 NYCRR Part 251) as required by the Power NY Act of 2011, which Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law in August 2011.

The regulations in Part 487 establish a regulatory framework to ana- lyze environmental justice issues associated with the siting or expansion of major electric generating facilities can be found on the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov/public/ 333.html.

During the siting of major electric generating facilities, the regulations require applicants to evaluate the significant and adverse disproportionate environmental impacts, if any, which may result from the facility’s construction or operation.

The regulations require applicants to:

– evaluate the cumulative impact on air quality;

– evaluate the demographic, economic and physical description of the community where the facility will be located, compared and contrasted to the county and adjacent communities

– evaluate the significant and adverse disproportionate environmental impacts of a proposed major electric generating facility, if any, resulting from its construction or operation; and

– avoid, minimize or offset any significant adverse disproportionate environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable.

The regulations in Part 251 establishes CO2 emission limits for proposed new major electric generating facilities that have a generating capacity of at least 25 megawatts, and for increases in capacity of at least 25 megawatts at existing electric generating facilities.

The carbon dioxide emission regulations:

– set a CO2 emission limit of 925 lbs/mw-hr (megawatt hour, outputbased limit) or 120 lbs/mmBtu (input-based limit) for most new or expanded base load fossil fuel-fired plants;

– set a CO2 emission limit of 1450 lbs/mw-hr (output-based limit) or 160 lbs/mmBtu (input-based limit) for simple cycle combustion turbines; allow each facility’s owner or operator to choose whether to comply with the relevant output-based or inputbased emission limits;

– provide for DEC to set case-specific

CO2 emission limits for certain power plants that fire non-fossil fuels; and

– require recordkeeping, monitoring and reporting consistent with existing state and federal regulations.

Following the DEC’s proposal of this regulation in January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April proposed a CO2 New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) under the federal Clean Air Act. The EPA’s proposed CO2 NSPS would apply nationwide and, like Part 251, would apply to certain new power plants.

The EPA’s proposal contains a primary CO2 emission standard of 1,000 lbs/mwhr. Should EPA finalize its proposed CO2 NSPS for new power plants with such a standard, any new plant that meets DEC’s primary CO2 emission standard of 925 lbs/mwhr in Part 251 would also meet the requirements of the EPA’s CO2 NSPS.

The new regulations take effect on Thursday, July 12.

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