Three national environmental groups want the federal government to overturn a permit allowing the construction of a new coal-fired power plant in Utah.
The Sierra Club said Friday that the groups had filed an appeal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, arguing that the agency, in issuing the permit, did not follow requirements outlined in a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Western Resource Advocates and Environmental Defense joined the Sierra Club in the appeal.
The permit, issued Aug. 30, is the first authorized by the EPA since the Supreme Court ruling in April, and did not consider controls for carbon dioxide. The EPA has argued that the ruling gave the agency the authority to monitor carbon-dioxide emissions from mobile sources such as cars, but not from stationary sources such as a power plant.
Tim Wagner, director of the Smart Energy Campaign for the Utah chapter of the Sierra Club, said Monday that his group is appealing the permit because of the Supreme Court case, and also because the environmental groups believe the electricity that would be generated by the plant isn't needed.
The 86-megawatt plant is planned to be built next to the existing 468-megawatt Bonanza Power Plant, located southeast of Vernal. The plant would burn waste coal or coal of an inferior quality that cannot be burned in the larger plant.
The waste coal is currently shipped to a landfill.
"It's certainly not one of our bigger coal projects in Utah, but it's still substantial in terms of the emissions," Wagner said. "The irony is, the generation from this project isn't as much needed, as what the company needs to make their waste coal economically viable."
An official from South Jordan-based Deseret Power Electric Cooperatives, which owns the Bonanza plant, declined comment on the permit issue Monday, saying the company was waiting to see the outcome of the appeal.
Jennifer Wood, an EPA spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement that "the environmental and energy security goals of the nation are best served by encouraging the development of all forms of clean coal technology and alternative fuels, while using existing energy supplies in an environmentally sound way. The Deseret Power project supplies a new source of electricity and uses a previously untapped reserve of waste coal as fuel in a plant with modern pollution controls."
Meanwhile, a congressional committee is investigating the EPA decision on the Bonanza permit. U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also has called upon top leadership of the agency to reconsider the permit.The permit is based on a "bootstrap argument that conflicts with the plain language" of the law outlined by the Supreme Court ruling, Waxman said in a Sept. 18 letter to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson.