A letter posted on the California Energy Commission’s web site last week reveals that the state had urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to slow down implementation of rules governing greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources because it would create a “huge administrative burden.”

The EPA in September last year proposed the so-called "Tailoring Rule." It would require power plants and other entities that emit more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year to obtain operating permits. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has hinted that the rule could take effect as early as this spring.

But the nine-page letter (PDF), which was sent to Jackson just before Christmas by the commission’s executive director, Melissa Jones, says that the EPA’s proposed Tailoring Rule would pose several problems for the state that has the strictest renewable standard in the nation—and which recently proposed a statewide carbon cap-and-trade program.

“We believe the proposed rule offers ample justification for setting the PSD [Prevention of Significant Deterioration]/Title V ‘threshold’ at a level higher than the 100/250 ton thresholds applicable to criteria pollutants in order to avoid regulatory gridlock and departure from the legislative intent of the Clean Air Act,” Jones wrote.

“However, we are gravely concerned that EPA’s current proposal will likely create a huge administrative burden for the agencies that must implement expanded federal permit programs during a period of scarce agency resources, resulting in major delays for the very infrastructure investments that are necessary to reduce GHG emissions. For this reason, the Energy Commission recommends that EPA consider a more ‘staged’ approach in its tailoring regulations to avoid these problems.”

Jones added that the Tailoring Rule could jeopardize California’s renewable energy strategy because an essential piece of the state’s future plans entails building new gas-fired power plants. These were “essential to support a more renewable-based system,” because they can quickly ramp up and down to support fluctuating generation from wind and solar facilities, she said.

“A 25,000 ton threshold will result in a several-fold increase in the number of PSD permits required in California,” she said. “Unfortunately, current agency resources are insufficient to process PSD permits without substantial delay, and there are no plans for new resources (either at Region 9 or at the air district level) to meet the significant new demand for PSD permits. Thus, it is likely the proposed rule, even at the 25,000 ton threshold, will cause gridlock of the air permit process.”

The state is the latest entity to petition the agency to slow down implementation rules. Besides oil, gas, and utilities industry groups, other states such as Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Florida have also urged the EPA to slow down.

Sources: California Energy Commission, EPA, POWERnews