Four conservation and public health groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Friday for approving a permit for a new gas-fired power plant in Palmdale.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, claims the EPA failed to adequately consider requiring clean-energy alternatives relying on battery storage that would limit further deterioration of the region’s already unhealthy air quality.
“Local residents are contending with some of the worst ozone and PM pollution in the country; EPA’s decision allows massive more health-damaging air pollution to be spewed into the air we breath,” said Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities Against Toxics. “EPA seems determined to keep the wheels on this highly polluting, jalopy technology.”
In response, EPA representatives said the agency does not comment on pending litigation, but it looks forward to arguing its position before the appellate panel.
The lawsuit was triggered by the EPA’s decision in April 2018 to issue a “prevention of significant deterioration” permit for a combined-cycle gas-fired power plant in Palmdale. The “deterioration” permit is only required in areas that already have bad air pollution.
In approving the permit, the agency not only rejected the use of battery-storage technology to reduce emissions but failed to accurately account for cumulative emissions in the area, Williams said.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Desert Citizens Against Pollution, California Communities Against Toxics and Sierra Club appealed that permit decision to the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board, which upheld the permit.
“The whole point of the air-permitting process is to limit new pollution in areas that are already suffering from bad air quality,” said Neil Carman of the Sierra Club. “By failing to consider new control technologies to reduce pollution when it reviewed this permit, EPA ignored the very purpose of the program.”
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, air pollution in the region would worsen as a result of the EPA’s approval of the permit.
“It’s appalling that the Trump EPA rubber-stamped more emissions that will worsen Southern California’s air quality,” said Lisa Belenky, a senior attorney for the center. “There’s no excuse for approving more dirty fossil-fuel emissions when cleaner, safer technologies are available.”
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