A permit issued by Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) last week to Southeast Idaho Energy to operate a clean coal gasification fertilizer plant near American Falls is the first in the state and the nation to set enforceable greenhouse gas emission limits.

The $2 billion facility will gasify coal and petcoke to produce nitrogenous fertilizers and elemental sulfur. The permit was granted after a settlement between the Sierra Club, the Idaho Conservation League, and Southeast Idaho Energy. The coal-fired facility will reduce emissions of CO2 by 58% within the first five years of operation by either implementing carbon capture and sequestration or purchasing offset credits. In addition, the facility will reduce emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O).

Idaho’s DEQ had issued a permit to the company in February without emissions limits for carbon dioxide and nitrous oxides, but it was challenged by environmental groups, which argued that it could have emitted up to 2.3 million tons of carbon dioxide.

Southeast Idaho Energy’s president, Ramesh Raman, said that the company planned to achieve the reductions by selling the carbon dioxide to gas and oil firms in Wyoming for enhanced oil recovery, delivering the gas by rail until a proposed pipeline was built.

DEQ officials said they will not include greenhouse gas emissions limits in future air quality permits until federal regulations have been finalized, reported the Idaho Statesman last week.

Sources: Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Idaho Statesman