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EPA Objections to Air Permits for Big Stone Power Plant Project Focuses on Lack of BACT Limits for Start-up. Shutdown and Malfunction Emissions and Inadequate Netting Procedure


By Larry Kane, Attorney, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP

In late January, 2009, EPA, Region 8, issued objections to a proposed Title V permit renewal for the Big Stone Power Plant located in South Dakota. The Title V permit includes conditions of a PSD permit recently issued to the plant owner for construction of a new generating unit, Big Stone II.

Among the principal reasons for the objections are: (i) the failure to include all PSD permit provisions in the Title V permit renewal; (ii) the failure to perform a proper PSD applicability analysis for SO2 and NOx for the source modification to add Big Stone II; and (iii) the failure to include adequate monitoring to make various limits practically enforceable, including limits that would assure the synthetic minor HAP source status of the plant.

In addition to these objections, the EPA expressed serious concern that the proposed Title V permit conditions does not assure that BACT limits will be applicable during periods of start-up, shutdown and malfunction (“SSM”). EPA indicated that the State agency did not establish secondary BACT limits for SSM periods nor did the State justify that good work practices were BACT for SSM emissions.

EPA’s objections to the provisions of the proposed Title V permit regarding determinations that PSD was not applicable to SO2 and NOx are based on the point that specific limits were not placed on Big Stone Unit I to assure the emission reductions needed to keep net emissions from the modified source below significance levels for these two polluants. The PSD permit included plantwide SO2 and NOx limits that were set up as emission caps but which were not referred to as Plantwide Applicability Limits (PALs) nor did they satisfy regulatory requirements for establishment of PALs. Finally, no test methods or test frequencies were specified in the proposed Title V permit for limits set in the permit to restrict hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride emissions below levels that would make the source major for HAPs.

The positions taken by EPA on BACT limitations for SSM events and the PSD applicability provisions have potential ramifications for other industrial sectors in addition to the utility sector and should be monitored for further developments.


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