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EPA denies energy industry petition to shield turbines from air rules

In Technology
April 16, 2024

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON, April 15 (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday denied a years-old petition by energy industry groups who sought to get the agency to remove limits on emissions of harmful pollutants from stationary turbines, arguing that the risk causing cancer remains high.

The agency denied the joint petition filed in 2019 by groups including American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute who asked to delist combustion turbines from the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Pollutants (NESHAP), which imposes curbs on emissions of known carcinogens like formaldehyde and benzene.

“Today’s action will ensure people who live, work and play near these facilities are protected from harmful air pollution,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan in a statement.

Gas-powered turbines emit formaldehyde and other dangerous pollutants through a chemical transformation that occurs when methane is superheated. Around 250 U.S. gas turbines had been subject to the rule, according to an EPA list, which included liquefied natural gas company Cheniere, as well as power plant operators and other industrial facilities.

Cheniere had separately petitioned the EPA in 2022 to exempt it from the NESHAP limits, arguing that complying with the rules would jeopardize their gas exports to Europe at a time that EU countries were seeking to source gas from outside of Russia, which had just invaded Ukraine.

The petitioners argued that the turbines do not pose a less than one in a million cancer threat but the EPA rejected their petition, saying the petitioners did not present adequate information and analyses.

The petitioners submitted additional information in November 2019, December 2020, and March 2021.

“While we are disappointed with this decision, we will continue to work with the EPA to ensure any new or revised emissions standards for combustion turbines are cost-effective and technically feasible,” said Scott Lauermann, a spokesperson for the API.

Environmental groups in states in the southeast where turbines are widely used said the denial will protect vulnerable residents who live near these facilities.

“It is critically important that these turbines remain covered by federal regulations which protect environmental justice communities from dangerous air toxic emissions,” said Keri Powell of the Southern Environmental Law Center. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; additional reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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