By the OGJ Online Staff
HOUSTON, July 13 -- A senior official with the California Air Resources Board said there's "no need" to make substantial changes to the new source review provisions of the federal Clean Air Act.
California's stricter environmental laws haven't discouraged new electricity generating capacity and California refineries were able to comply with the state's tougher rules during recent upgrades, said Peter Venturi, chief of the stationary source division at CARB.
Testifying Thursday before a US Environmental Protection Agency panel in Sacramento, Venturi recommended control technology requirements of the federal law be strengthened, noting the state's stiffer technology-based rules have led to substantial decreases in air pollution.
The Bush administration ordered a 90-day assessment of NSR provisions as part of its recently released national energy plan after industrial companies complained EPA's interpretation threatens energy supplies and discourages plant upgrades. The final report, due to President Bush Aug.17, is expected to include recommendations on how to improve the NSR process.
Venturi conceded offsets have become more difficult to obtain in some parts of the state than others and the price of these offsetting pollution credits has risen along with the increase in generating capacity.
"While obtaining offsets can be challenging in some areas, the Air Resources Board and the local districts have actively worked to identify opportunities to create offsets, and we are planning for the future," he said.
By utilizing the concept of "best available control technology" (BACT), Venturi said the state has cut ozone exposure 50% in the past 20 years. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) and volatile organic compound emissions from petroleum refining are down 50%, while NOx emissions from power plants have fallen about 77%, he said.
The decline took place while the California population rose 43% and gross state product climbed 84%. California's NSR requirements, which are tougher than the federal government's, "have not been a significant deterrent to economic expansions," Venturi said.
Under the state Clean Air Act, Venturi said, any new or modified unit that emits above a certain potential-to-emit threshold is subject to control requirements ranging from 10 to 25 lb/day.
California NSR in nonattainment areas is based on the premise new emissions should be minimized and mitigated so industrial growth can continue without undermining progress toward achieving clean air mandates, Venturi said. The state doesn't permit "netting out" of emission control requirements.
Since the early 1980s, NOx emissions from combined cycle gas turbines have fallen to 2-2.5 ppm from about 80 ppm, he said. Under federal standards that have not been updated since 1982, Venturi said, combined cycle units would be permitted NOx emissions of about 150 ppm.
During recent upgrades to produce cleaner fuels, California refineries were able to meet NSR standards and offset requirements and some expanded capacity "significantly," he said. "New requirements to phase out MTBE by the end of 2002 will require further refinery modifications. Currently, California refineries are on schedule toward making the latest transition."