Kudos to Tim Carney for exposing the EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions waiver for the proposed Avenal (CA) power plant which intends to buy gas and steam turbines from General Electric.
But there’s possibly much more to the story.
First, the EPA has not yet granted the waiver to GE. According to a Jan. 31, 2011 court declaration by EPA air chief Gina McCarthy, the EPA is planning to seek public comment on a proposal to grant the waiver.
While it might not be unreasonable to view such a proposal as a mere formality, consider that the EPA rejected a permit this week for a U.S. Steel facility in Granite City, IL — in response to an appeal from the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic at Washington University School of Law.
In this blog’s Feb. 3 story about the EPA taking a hard line on the first greenhouse gas emissions permit, activists opposed the permit in public comments, a likely indicator that they will appeal the permit to the EPA. If (when) the enviros appeal, the EPA can then reject the permit and then say it was responding to new facts brought to light by “public interest groups.”
This could easily happen to the Avenal permit as well. You can bet that the greens will be unhappy with any exemption from air rules. They will have the opportunity to make a scene at a public hearing — providing EPA with a perfect excuse to deny the permit based on public outcry. If the permit is granted, they will appeal. if the appeal goes to court, we won’t be surprised to hear that the EPA (intentionally) committed some fatal procedural flaw to sabotage the permit.
The bottom line is that EPA permitting is a complex multi-layered game and most of the game is not visible to the public.
Would the Obama EPA risk offending GE CEO Jeff Immelt, the new chairman of the President’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council? No offense would likely be taken by Immelt. The Obama-Immelt relationship is a complex one that is not dependent on the fate of a few turbines. The turbines are not the problem with the permit anyway — the issue is the plant’s exemption from EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions rules.