Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
BREDL Clean Air

BREDL's Comments on Carolina Power & Light's H.F. Lee and Cape Fear Title V power plant permits

These are the first two CP&L Title V permits to go to public hearing:

H.F. Lee Steam Electric Plant
Goldsboro, Wayne County, NC
Facility ID No. 960017
Draft permit No. 01812T22

Cape Fear Steam Electric Plant
Moncure, Chatham County, NC
Facility ID No. 1900063
Draft Permit No. 1057T17

We have reviewed the draft permits and other state documents and found the following:

1) Visible Emissions

Carolina Power & Light is out of compliance with existing regulations at Cape Fear and H. F. Lee. plants.  The regulations which the company fails to comply with include 15A NCAC 2D .0524 New Source Performance Standards for Lee combustion turbine units 10, 11, 12, and 13, and 15A NCAC 2D .0521 Control of Visible Emissions at all units.  These regulations have been effective since January 3, 1988 and February 1, 1976, respectively.  A Special Order by Consent (EMC AQ 99-004) states, "The COMPANY has discharged and continues to have the potential to discharge visible emissions to the excess of the Visible Emissions Standard"

The SOC states that excess visible emissions for each plant will be allowed above the limits set in 2D .0521 (40% six-minute opacity) and 40 CFR 60.42 for NSPS units (20% six-minute opacity).  The permit does not contain an upper opacity limit which effectively allows a 100% opacity standard for any given six-minute period under the exemption. The SOC contains criteria which allow excess emissions (EE) and continuous opacity monitor downtime of up to 8%.    For 56 days a year the plant may exceed the 40% / 20% six-minute standard at up to 100% opacity under the formula prescribed in the SOC.  For nearly one-sixth of total operation time both plants could emit pollutants which would blacken the sky.

CP&L submitted an Integrated Resource Plan to the NC Utilities Commission in 1995 (Docket No. E-100, Sub 75B).  The company stated that all of its coal-fired electric plants would have to meet the goals of the Clean Air Act Amendments.  Concerned with more stringent emissions requirements, CP&L outlined a plan "to maintain flexibility" and satisfy requirements at the lowest cost: "[D]ecisions on investments in ESP equipment should be delayed as long as possible.  Second, decisions to switch to lower sulfur fuel or to build a scrubber should also be delayed for as long as possible."  (CP&L Integrated Resource Plan, p. 4-10, April 28, 1995)

The SOC is a result of such delays on the part of CP&L.  Through adjudication and negotiation the company has carved a hole in applicable standards which should not be included in this permit.

The draft permit's state-enforceable requirements for control of visible emissions under 15A NCAC 2D .0536 allow too much pollution.  This rule sets specific annual average opacity levels for each generating unit at 18%, 11%, and 15% for Lee boilers 1, 2, and 3 and 17% and 15% for Cape Fear boilers 5 & 6, respectively.  However,  an annual opacity average of 15% would still allow more than 22 full days, three weeks at 24 hours a day, of 90% opacity and 343 days of 10%

2) Toxic Air Pollutants

A Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) is now required annually by the Environmental Protection Agency for all coal-fired electric generating stations.  CP&L's seven plants released 32 million pounds of toxic compounds in 1998, mostly air emissions.  These emissions result from the burning of thousands of tons of coal.  The releases include hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid, barium, manganese, copper, chromium, zinc, arsenic, nickel, ammonia, beryllium, chlorine, cobalt, lead, selenium, mercury, and dioxin. Airborne particulates consist of 1) solids which adsorb hazardous air pollutants, and 2)  droplets of liquid pollutants including volatile organic compounds.  It is a toxic whirlwind which must be reduced.  Our initial review of CP&L's permit application indicates draft permit fails to adequately control hazardous air pollutants.

3) Sulfur Dioxide

The draft permits stipulate a 24-hour block averaging time for determination of compliance with SO2 (and NOx) emissions limits.  Permitted combustion sources utilize continuous emission monitoring systems and are required to limit their emissions to 2.3 pounds SO2/mmBtu.  The use of a 24-hour block averaging time allows spikes of high SO2 emissions to be averaged with lower levels emitted during the averaging period.  The resulting average appears  to comply with the SO2 standard on paper, but higher actual levels of sulfur dioxide would be allowed during that 24 hours.

Continuous emission instruments record data on an hourly basis. Therefore, calculations done with this data after it is collected determine how closely the source limits emissions.  During a 3-hour rolling average regime, emissions would be limited to the same 2.3 pounds SO2/mmBtu standard, but there is less opportunity for an owner/operator to conceal transient high emissions. An analogous situation: A car which travels at 120 mph for one hour and 50 mph for 23 hours is averaging 53 miles per hour.  The danger is great during that one hour, but no speeding law would be broken if the average speed was the standard.

The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 identified sulfur dioxide and other criteria pollutants as major air pollution problems.  The 24-hour health standard for sulfur dioxide is 365 ug/m3 but poor atmospheric mixing and air inversions can increase concentrations in populated areas to dangerous levels in a matter of hours. The risk to the very young, the elderly, and to people with heart or lung disease is especially serious.

4) Particulates

The magic bullet to knock out Title V permitting may be CP&Ls use of current trimming--the ramping down of voltage to the electrostatic precipitators (ESPs).  In an inspection report Steve Hall of the Raleigh Regional Office of DAQ reported that Cape Fear Unit #6 has energy management software which decreases ESP voltage as opacity decreases. CP&L plans to install this software on Cape Fear Unit #5.  Sometime before September 1997 CP&L began using current trimming.  The practice was discovered by Brad Newland of the Wilmington Regional Office of DAQ.  On September 29, 1997 he wrote to CP&L,  "Annual stack tests are performed on each of your facilities' boilers to demonstrate compliance with particulate emissions limits. During these tests the ESPs were documented to be operating at full power, apparently not controlled by the power-minimization software.  This did not appear to be the case when the boilers were observed during subsequent inspections...."

We at BREDL assert that the CP&L Cape Fear plant, and possibly the Lee plant, is in violation of particulate emission standards.  The NC DAQ cannot permit a continuing violation.

Lou and Janet Zeller
April 11, 2000

Action Alert: Public Hearing on CP& L Title V permits April 18, 2000,  7:00 PM , Raleigh, NC

Title V Fact Sheet
BREDL comments on other Title V permits