DOJ Files to Enforce Luminant’s Alleged NSR Violations at Big Brown, Martin Lake

An enforcement action filed in federal district court by the Department of Justice last week alleges Luminant Generating Co. made unauthorized changes to its Big Brown and Martin Lake coal-fired power plants in Texas that violated the Clean Air Act.

The case filed under seal in the Northern District of Texas (Dallas division) follows a Notice of Violation issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in July 2012.

In that notice, the EPA alleges that Luminant violated New Source Review Prevention of Significant  Deterioration (PSD) provisions of the Clean Air Act when it made physical changes or changes in the method of operation at the company’s two-unit 1,150-MW Big Brown Power Plant in Freestone County and its three-unit 2,250-MW Martin Power Plant in Rusk and Panola Counties.

Those changes constituted “modifications” in Luminant’s plants that resulted in “the emission of air contaminants” into Texas air—and Luminant was therefore required to either obtain a permit to construct, obtain a permit amendment, or “satisfy the conditions for a standard permit or permit by rule.” Luminant also violated federally approved PSD rules of the Texas State Implementation Plan, the agency claims.

Luminant has argued the “modifications” alleged by the EPA were “routine maintenance work involving repairs and replacement of boiler components” and would not require the company to seek a permit from the agency.

This June, the company’s parent company Energy Future Holdings Corp. petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to set aside the notice of violation because the EPA disregarded important limitations on its authority to enforce state implementation plans—and because the notice was vague. “Nowhere does EPA explain why the purported ‘changes’ would have been expected to cause emissions increases that trigger PSD permitting obligations. Nor does the [notice] reveal which type of emissions is at issue,” Luminant argued.

Sources: POWER, DOJ, Luminant

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