State Air Quality Board Remands Air Permit for Coal-to-Liquids Plant in Mingo County, West Virginia
March 28, 2011
On March 28, Sierra Club and its allies achieved an important legal victory when the West Virginia Air Quality Board remanded the air permit for the proposed TransGas coal-to-liquids facility to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The Board sided with the environmental groups and ordered DEP to modify the air permit with respect to three important issues.
The overarching issue was whether DEP had reasonably estimated the plant’s “potential to emit” to fall below the “major source” threshold, and thereby avoid additional permit requirements. The Board agreed with Sierra Club and its allies that DEP could not reasonably assume that the plant’s flare would destroy 99.5% of carbon monoxide to support the facility’s classification as a minor source. The company now has to procure a vendor guarantee for that amount prior to approval of a minor source permit. The Board also agreed that the application and permit did not contain enough assurances about air pollutant emissions during startup, shutdowns, and malfunctions. Finally, the Board agreed that air pollutant emissions from the yet-to-be-designed wastewater treatment may need to be considered in the facility’s potential to emit.
The Board’s decision will push TransGas to obtain an updated permit that more accurately reflects the plant’s emissions sources. While TransGas’s spokesperson has stated that the company intends to break ground in June, there is still no indication that the plant has financing to begin construction.
April 5, 2010
On March 29, Sierra Club and its allies took action to protect West Virginian communities and the environment from air pollution. Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch, and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy appealed the air permit for the proposed TransGas coal-to-liquids facility in Mingo County, arguing that the plant’s air pollution emissions have been underestimated. By classifying the facility as a "minor" rather than a "major" source of air pollutants, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) is allowing developers of the facility to sidestep stringent pollution control technologies and analyses of air quality impacts required by the Clean Air Act. Sierra Club and its allies are urging WVDEP to go back to the drawing board, and set stringent emission limits to control air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxide. In addition, the environmental groups are asking that the best available control technology be employed to control carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from the facility. The proposed plant will emit millions of tons of greenhouse gases every year, contributing to global warming.
Details and Documents:
Groups Appeal Coal-to-Liquids Plant
March 29, 2010, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
See other "Stopping the Coal Rush" cases.