Surveyed regulators say NSR bill not needed

Nick Snow
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC, June 6 -- A survey of state and local air-quality regulators suggests that federal legislation is not necessary to facilitate permits for US refinery construction and expansion, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Democratic staff said on June 5.

Regulators from 20 states who are responsible for issuing permits for about half of the nation's refineries said that in most cases new source review (NSR) air permit applications to expand existing refineries have been completed within a year.

They also said they have received no permit requests connected with a new refinery in the last 10 years. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality reinstated an air permit originally issued in 1992 to the Arizona Clean Fuels Project in April 2005.

Responses were not received from regulators in Texas and California, which together have more than 20% of US refineries.

The committee's minority staff reported the results as the Refinery Permit Process Act appeared headed for a second House floor vote.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Charles F. Bass (R-NH), did not pass on May 3 because it came to the floor under suspension of House rules and lacked the necessary two-thirds majority.

Democrats on the committee contend that Republicans are pushing for passage of a bill that could usurp state and local air regulators' authority without holding hearings or gathering information first.

The state and local regulators responded to a Feb. 16 request by Chief Minority Member John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) for NSR air permit processing information.

"Although states and local agencies issue other types of permits for refineries, data was collected on the NSR air permit process because it is the one most frequently identified as a concern by industry," the minority staff said in its report.

It said that of the 20 state and local regulators from which it received responses, 12 reported receiving about 34 NSR applications to modify existing refineries in the last 10 years. All but two took less than a year to process, the report said.

The response from Louisiana, which arrived after the initial responses were compiled, said permits took longer to process there. It issued four NSR permits in the last 10 years and expected to issue two more in 2006.

Regulators in the other 19 states said they had only three NSR permit applications pending, the report said.

Contact Nick Snow at nsnow@cox.net.

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