Clean Air  

BLUE RIDGE ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE LEAGUE ~ PO Box 88 Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~ Email:

August 21, 2001

Ms. Nancy Perry
Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards
Air Quality Strategies and Standards Division, MD-15
Research Triangle Park, NC 27711

Re: Docket No. A-2000-28, Proposed Guidelines for Best Available Retrofit Technology Determinations Under the Regional Haze Rule

Dear Ms. Perry:

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, I write to comment on the proposed guidelines for Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) under the regional haze regulations published on July 1, 1999 (64 FR 35714). I am Clean Air Campaign Coordinator for Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and have served on the staff since 1986.

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League is a non-profit grassroots environmental organization which was founded in 1984 and now has over 40 chapters and 2000 members. We are incorporated in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee and we have local projects in all four states.

We call upon the US Environmental Protection Agency close the loophole for fossil-fueled electric power plants, and to reduce air pollutants which reduce visibility in our national parks and which cause thousands of deaths every year. The EPA’s BART rule would cut air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, smog and dangerous fine particle pollution from many of the nation’s oldest coal-burning power plants. These plants have benefit from a loophole in the Clean Air Act which allows them to emit tons of haze-causing air pollution, primarily sulfur dioxide, which forms sulfate particles in the atmosphere, reducing visibility and they contributing to acid rain. Sulfur dioxide also creates serious health risks, especially for people with chronic respiratory diseases.

A recent study published in the journal of the American Heart Association links short term exposure to elevated levels of PM2.5 to increased hospitalizations for patients with myocardial infarction (heart attacks).

“The risk of MI onset increased in association with elevated concentrations of fine particles in the previous 2-hour period. In addition, a delayed response associated with 24-hour average exposure 1 day before the onset of symptoms was observed. Multivariate analyses considering both time windows jointly revealed an estimated odds ratio of 1.48 associated with an increase of 25 g/m3 PM2.5 during a 2-hour period before the onset and an odds ratio of 1.69 for an increase of 20 g/m3 PM2.5 in the 24-hour period 1 day before the onset” Annette Peters, PhD, et al, Increased Particulate Air Pollution and the Triggering of Myocardial Infarction , Circulation (2001;103:2810.) June 2001

The regional haze rule promulgated in 1999 regulates pollutants which affect visibility in the nation’s 156 pristine areas, including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Acadia, the Everglades, and the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks. The BART requirement applies to facilities built between 1962 and 1977 that have the potential to emit more than 250 tons a year of pollution which impairs visibility including: sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), volatile organic compounds (VOC), and ammonia. Emissions of visibility-damaging pollutants from these sources are substantial. According to the EPA, utilities subject to the BART requirement emit about 6 million tons of sulfur dioxide a year. John M. Stanton, Vice President of the National Environmental Trust, estimates that BART guidelines could require up to 4 million tons of SO2 and 1.25 million tons of NOX reductions each year for power plants alone.

The BART Rule Would Significantly Improve Air Quality

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League has members in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, where 33 of 136 fossil-fuel electric power units began operation from 1962 to 1977, the units for which BART requirements would apply. BART would apply to 24% of the existing power plants in the region: 8% of the units in Tennessee, 15% in Virginia, 31% in North Carolina, and 44% in South Carolina [DOE data 1996].

The six North Carolina plants which would be affected by the BART rule produce between 47% and 61% of the sulfur dioxide emitted from all the coal-fired units in the state [DOE data 1996]. The BART rule would require large reductions of sulfur dioxide at two of the dirtiest plants in North Carolina, Marshall and Belews Creek, and significant reductions at four other plants: Roxboro, Sutton, Asheville, and Cliffside. In my home state of North Carolina fourteen coal-fired power plants emit 82% of all the sulfur dioxide pollution, and 1800 people a year die from pollution caused by power plants and other major sources.

The three Virginia plants which would be affected by the BART rule produce 28% of the electric power of all the coal-fired units in the state. The BART rule would require large reductions of sulfur dioxide at two of the largest electric generators in Virginia, Chesterfield units 5 and 6, and significant reductions at two other plants: Possum and Chesapeake, all operated by Dominion Resources. The Chesterfield plant alone emits 36% of the sulfur dioxide emitted from Virginia’s nine coal fired power plants [DOE data 1996]. From 1996 to 1999 statewide annual emissions of sulfur dioxide from fossil power plants has increased over 9% from 192,606 tons to 210,929 tons, with a peak of 213, 404 tons occurring in 1997.

Apply BART To All Major Sources Under The Haze Rule

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League believes that BART requirements must not be limited to utility and industrial boilers, but should apply to major industrial facilities including pulp mills and refineries; i.e., EPA should require the application of BART to all 26 enumerated source categories, including power plants, listed in the Clean Air Act’s section 169. Our air pollution problem is serious and many of these facilities have been exempted from federal pollution control requirements for decades.

The Interpretation of BART Guidelines Must Not Allow Delays in Implementation

Under the Haze Rule, state regulatory agencies will determine which plants must control emissions and by how much. The states’ air pollution agencies are to consider many factors including cost, energy impacts, environmental consequences, and the overall improvement in visibility. However, we must object to language which would allow state agencies to take into account the remaining useful life of the power plant to be controlled.

The average age of the 33 BART applicable plants in Tennessee, Virginia, North and South Carolina is 31 years. These are plants which the utilities argued would soon be retired and therefore requested and received exemptions from modern standards during debates on the Clean Air Act of 1970. Would utilities now acknowledge that they will operate these same plants for decades to come and therefore will bear the cost of adding best achievable retrofit technology? I do not believe so. It is not mere skepticism which drives this concern. Experience in North Carolina reveals a pattern of actions by both major utilities which have sought to delay implementation of stricter standards for many years.

Utilities Granted Unfair and Unnecessary Exemption From VE and NSPS

In 1999 Duke Power and CP&L requested from North Carolina a special order by consent (SOC) to postpone compliance with existing visible emission regulations and new source performance standards until 2002. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources cooperated with this request and the NC Environmental Management Commission approved SOCs for six coal-fired CP&L facilities and seven coal-fired Duke Energy Corporation facilities.

The public notice for each SOC stated, “This order allows the Company time to evaluate the condition of their electrostatic precipitators and to explore various improvement measures.” But electrostatic precipitators were first developed in 1906. They are not new devices and they are very effective at removing fine particles from the air. Moreover, they are in extensive use throughout the coal-fired electric utility industry. What justified a three year delay in compliance?

“Electrostatic precipitators find widespread use as effective air pollution control devices in many industries. Although they often demand higher capital investment in comparison with other gas cleaning methods, the low operating and maintenance costs, the high collection efficiency and the ability to face severe operating conditions make ESPs suitable in pollution problems characterizing many process installations such as coal-burning power stations, cement plants, iron industries and glass manufacture.” (Economical Comparison of Conventional and Pulsed ESPs in Industrial Applications, 6th International Conference on Electrostatic Precipitation, 1997)

Carolina Power & Light and Duke Energy stipulated in their respective SOC’s that each was in violation of state rule 15A NCAC 2D .0521 for the Control of Visible Emissions:

“The COMPANY has discharged and continues to have the potential to discharge visible emissions to the excess of the Visible Emissions Standard.” (Duke and CP&L SOCs paragraph 1.D)

Nonetheless, the utilities decided to seek delays rather than install ESPs:

“[T]he COMMISSION and the COMPANY, desiring to settle the visible emissions compliance issues between them, have agreed to enter into this SOC with the following terms and conditions.” (emphasis added) (Duke and CP&L SOCs paragraph 1.D)

The North Carolina Environmental Management Commission’s approval of the SOCs amounted to thirteen permit modifications without full public process. Duke and CP&L sought changes in permitted emission levels for opacity and a three-year delay in compliance. The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League opposed the utilities’ special orders by consent because:

CP&L and Duke Energy accounted for 68% of the NOx emissions and 75% of the SO2 emissions from all stationary air pollution sources in North Carolina, almost 1.3 billion pounds per year;

CP&L and Duke Energy were out of compliance with state and federal regulations;

Both utilities sought to lower existing pollution standards;

The SOC’s bypassed normal rulemaking procedures; and

The utilities engaged in deliberate delay tactics which were illegal and should not have been permitted.

Carolina Power & Light Delayed Investment in Electrostatic Precipitators

In 1995 Carolina Power & Light submitted an Integrated Resource Plan to the North Carolina Utilities Commission (Docket No. E-100, Sub 75B). The IRP states that all of CP&L’s coal-fired electric plants would have to meet SO2 and NOx goals of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA). In its IRP the company states:

“During Phase II, which begins January 1, 2000, the SO2 reduction goals are to be reached through more stringent requirements at virtually all fossil fuel generating units. All of CP&L’s coal-fired units are Phase II-affected units.” (CP&L Integrated Resource Plan, p. 4-1, April 28, 1995)

Obviously, CP&L was well-aware of the regulatory landscape. However, concerned with the cost of more stringent emissions requirements, CP&L outlined a plan to delay installation of all available methods of pollution control:

“In order to maintain flexibility and satisfy all SO2 and potential air toxics requirements at the lowest cost, decisions on investments in ESP equipment should be delayed as long as possible. Second, decisions to switch to lower sulfur fuel or to build a scrubber should also be delayed for as long as possible.” (emphasis added) (CP&L Integrated Resource Plan, p. 4-10, April 28, 1995)

Later that year the NC Utilities Commission held public hearings on the CP&L IRP. In city after city citizens spoke against rising air pollution levels, the negative impacts on their children’s health, and called for real reductions in acid rain, ground-level ozone, and air toxics. Utility integrated resource plans contain a 15 year forecast of electricity demand, environmental impact, and regulatory compliance. But stated company policy as revealed in the IRP was to put off investment in the best technology available and ignore the comments people calling for cleaner air.

Pollution Trading Results in Hot Spots

The proposed amendment also provides guidelines for states to establish emissions trading programs. This alternative to BART would allows states and utilities to create pollution zones based on the cheapest methods. The stipulation that such trading programs must result in greater visibility improvement and emissions reductions than would be expected through emission controls on each facility is a false condition. Pollution trading, even when it has reduced local pollution levels, has impeded progress in meeting reduction goals elsewhere and in the aggregate. That is, pollution reductions would be greater overall and locally if emission controls were required on each and every facility.

Cost effectiveness is the linchpin of pollution trading schemes and simply results in greater reliance on externalization of costs, a shell game which endangers the health of people living near the pollution-buying facility. We are familiar with the effects of pollution trading. We are breathing the pollution imported from other states, pollution acquired through record-setting utility pollution-trading deals.

The ineffectiveness and injustice of pollution trading is detailed in a report on the RECLAIM smog reduction program in Los Angeles, published by the Transnational Resource & Action Center

“Under RECLAIM, an estimated 40,000 more tons of industrial NOx will be released into the air than would have resulted from the regulations it replaced. This is the result of efforts by a corporate coalition, dominated by oil and aerospace companies, which successfully lobbied to inflate the baseline of allowable emissions for the 500 companies. Foreshadowing the dynamics of global pollution trading, the corporate lobby claimed that the 1990 recession, which slowed industrial production, justified extra emission reduction credits when RECLAIM began.” Michael Belliveau, Smoke and Mirrors: Will Global Pollution Trading Save the Climate or Promote Injustice and Fraud? 10/98

The Sixty Year Haze Rule Target For Compliance

The Haze Rules require a return to clean air in 156 national parks and wilderness areas by about 2068. The Haze Rules requires that major visibility improvements take place every decade in which the rules are in effect and not just towards the end. In the sixty year period during which 100% haze pollution reductions are to take place, visibility must improve by only 15% per decade. As detailed in these comments, we anticipate that states and electric utilities will attempt to extend the sixty year clean up period. States must not be permitted to sanction a slower rate of progress. The time frame for pollution reductions as outlined by the Haze Rule is already too long. It is beyond comprehension why power plants which began operation in the seventh and eighth decades of the 20th Century would need to delay compliance with pollution standards beyond the seventh decade of the 21st Century.

We hereby request a target date of 2038 with no exemptions. A 3% annual reduction in haze-causing air pollution is reasonable, practicable, and feasible. Electrostatic precipitators, acid gas scrubbers, selective catalytic reduction, and other technologies now exist which would achieve this rate of reduction.

Please allow our grandchildren already born to see the pristine vistas and to breathe the fresh air which we may never witness.

Respectfully submitted,

Louis Zeller
Clean Air Campaign Coordinator
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
PO Box 88
Glendale Springs, NC 28629
(336) 982-2691

Read North Carolina Press Release and Four-state (VA, NC, SC, & TN) Press Release , EPA BART Facts

The EPA will accept written comments until September 18, 2001. To submit comments (identified by the docket number A-2000-28) contact Ms. Nancy Perry, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Air Quality Strategies and Standards Division, MD-15, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, telephone (919) 541-5628, e-mail:   For further information contact BREDL at or call 336-982-2691.