First Greenhouse Gas Permit Issued

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Greenhouse gases are such materials as Carbon Dioxide and Methane that are implicated in global warming. From a permitting point of view it is a new phenomena. Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the first Texas Greenhouse Gas (GHG) permit for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant in Llano County, Texas. LCRA is modernizing and expanding its plant by replacing its 37 year old unit with a new more efficient and reliable natural gas powered unit.

The Lower Colorado River Authority or LCRA is a nonprofit public utility that was created in November 1934 by the Texas Legislature. LCRA’s mission is to protect people, property and the environment by providing public services for more than one million people in Central and Southeast Texas. These services include electricity, water, flood management, water and wastewater utilities, public parks along the Highland Lakes and lower Colorado River, and community and economic development services to rural and suburban communities.

“The new 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.”

LCRA is the first company in Texas to complete the GHG permit process and obtained a final permit in about 8 months. Earlier this year, the company proposed to replace an old 440 megawatt electricity generating boiler with a new reliable 590 megawatt combined cycle gas-fired plant. The new plant relies on an advanced electric power generation system that reduces nitrogen oxide emissions and also includes advanced environmental monitoring of GHG emissions.

“We appreciated EPA’s work on our project,” said LCRA General Manager Becky Motal. “We believe that replacing our aging Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant with this new combined-cycle natural gas plant benefits everyone. 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 Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state agency that should be responsible for issuing such permits, said it was pleased the Lower Colorado River Authority’s would now be able to move forward.

But “we see no need for — or any environmental benefit from — EPA’s greenhouse gas permit,” said Andy Saenz, a TCEQ spokesman. “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.”

The EPA took over the state’s greenhouse gas permitting program after Texas refused to comply with new regulations designed to decrease air pollution believed to contribute to climate change. Texas, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and industrial pollution in the nation, was the only state that refused to comply, arguing among other things that the regulations would be too costly for businesses in a weak economy.

Article by Andy Soos, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

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Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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