And now, for BSI and BS II update

December 14th, 2006


This is a little holiday cheer from CURE, the “other” CURE, Clean Up the River Environment, who are doing grassroots work on Big Stone II.Â

And on the Big Stone I front, this is from my Sierra Club cohort, attorney Bruce Nilles, who is working on the Big Stone I air permit in a federal venue:

There is no way the Big Stone II coal plant will start construction in 2007, even were we to lose at every step, which ain’t gonna happen. No construction can commence without a final and effective air permit.

The state of South Dakota operates its air permit program under a delegation agreement from USEPA. This means that an air permit is a federal permit and our appeal option is directly to the US EPA Environmental Appeals Board. Under this system, once the state issues a final permit decision and the permit is appealed to the Environmental Appeals Board, the effectiveness of the permit is stayed. That is, no construction may commence during the appeal process. The appeal process takes any where from 9 months to as much as three years. Sierra Club and our allies have had significant success before the Board appealing permits issued in Illinois. For example, the Indeck permit was issued 10/2003 â?? the Board issued its final ruling (remanding the permit back to the state) in 10/2006. Indeck is now back to square one in the permitting process.

It appears that South Dakota/Otter Tail Power have finally realized they have a serious problem with the air permit. You will recall that the state issued the draft air permit in mid-2006. We submitted extensive comments opposing the issuance of the air permit. The state took the unprecedented step of withdrawing the draft air permit. Now the state has applied to USEPA to change its entire permit program so that air permits in SD are no longer federal permits, but state-issued permit through a state-approved permit program. Specifically, the state wants to eliminate the current bar on commencing construction while an appeal is pending. The state is pressuring USEPA to quickly approve this change â?? USEPA has told them the earliest they would propose to approve such a change would be in the Spring of 2007. The first step in the approval process is for USEPA to put out a notice in the federal register that it is proposing to approve the program changes. At that time we can submit comments opposing the change â?¦ and depending on the strength of our comments, USEPA may take months/years to make the change. All the while the state of South Dakota has not issued a final air permit and construction may not commence.

In addition to this serious problem, we have also filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue over ongoing clean air violations at BS1. We expect to file in federal court in January/February. If we are successful in this litigation it knocks out the validity of the air permit for BS2 which is premised on OTP taking credit for â??voluntaryâ? pollution reductions at BS1.

BS1 is the second dirtiest NOx polluter in the Nation â?? right after the Riverside plant in MN, which is on tap to be repowered w/natural gas shortly. The NOx emission rate from BS1 is more than 20 times higher than a coal plant w/modern pollution controls. So when they say they wonâ??t increase air pollution with the addition of BSII it should not give anyone any solace.

Let me know if you have any questions about any of this and feel free to share any of this with others.


Done, it’s shared!.

Leave a Reply