Tag Archives: Air Permitting

The Federal Budget and North Carolina’s Environment

March 24, 2017.  Last week, the Trump administration released the Trump Budget Blueprint which describes in very general terms the President’s budget proposals for federal agencies.  The Blueprint just opens the debate on the 2018 federal budget.  Congress will significantly influence the final budget and members from both parties have already expressed concern about some of Trump’s proposed budget cuts.   Percentage-wise, the deepest cuts in the Trump Budget Blueprint affect the Environmental Protection Agency.  As background for the coming federal budget debate,  this blogpost looks at the potential impact of the Trump budget plan on key state environmental protection programs.

Based on preliminary reports, the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club provided a guide to the potential impact of the Trump budget the day before actual release of the Budget Blueprint. (Full disclosure — I assisted in preparation of the Sierra Club report.)  For each  major state environmental protection program, the report shows the percentage of the program budget currently funded by federal grants and the impact of cuts identified in the Trump budget plan. The report also provides information on other  DEQ activities supported by  federal grants that may be eliminated under the Trump administration’s  budget plan.

I want to focus on information in the Sierra Club report about impacts to Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act programs in North Carolina.   EPA  has delegated federal permitting and enforcement authority under those laws to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). EPA provides oversight to ensure the state programs meet federal requirements,  but DEQ has responsibility for day to day implementation.  DEQ issues Clean Water Act permits for wastewater discharges; Clean Air Act permits for  air emissions and air pollution control equipment; and Safe Drinking Water Act permits for public water systems.  DEQ also enforces water quality, air quality and drinking water standards.  In return for the state taking on those federal permitting and enforcement responsibilities, EPA provides program implementation or “categorical” grants to partially offset the cost.

The Trump Budget Blueprint does not provide detail on many cuts, but specifically proposes a 45% reduction in the EPA categorical grants that support basic state Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act programs. The tables below put the proposed cut in the context of each delegated program’s budget. Some notes on the numbers:

♦ “Total Need” means the complete budget (from all funding sources) for the delegated Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act program.

♦  Both the “total need” and federal funding numbers come from the certified state budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

♦  These numbers only cover the EPA categorical grants for the delegated federal permitting/enforcement programs.  The numbers do not reflect separate federal grants for targeted research or pollution reduction projects like  the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program. Some of those federal grants reportedly have been targeted for elimination in Trump administration budget plans.

♦ The proposed federal funding cuts shown below are higher than those show for these same programs in the Sierra Club report because the final Trump Blueprint increased the percentage reduction over those reported earlier.

N.C. Clean Air Act Implementation

Total Need Federal Grant % Federally Funded Proposed Federal Funding Cut
$4,854,105 $2,482,845  50% – 45%

Clean Water Act Program Implementation 

Total Need Federal Grant % Federally Funded Proposed Federal Funding Cut
$14,160,554 $6,662,950   50%  -45%

Safe Drinking Water Act Program Implementation 

Total Need Federal Grant % Federally Funded Proposed Federal Funding Cut
$5,870,612 $3,316,895 50% – 45%

In sum: EPA grants provide 50% of the funding for each of the major environmental permitting and enforcement programs delegated to the state under federal law. A 45% reduction in the federal grant would result in a cut of nearly 25% to each of those state programs.  As discussed in an earlier post, many N.C. environmental protection programs have already experienced significant reductions in state funding since 2009-2010. The water quality program has been particularly hard hit.

Deep cuts to the federal grants would force the state to decide whether to make up the loss of federal funds with increased state appropriations from tax revenue or higher permit fees. The alternative would be to accept further erosion of those programs. The question may be particularly acute for the air quality program which is now entirely supported by the federal grant and permit fees.

You can find the entire Sierra Club report here .

NOTE: The original blog post has been revised to more accurately describe the release date for the Sierra Club guide and to note that information on  percentage reductions to these particular programs changed (for the worse) after release of the Sierra Club report. 

Should N.C. Stop Enforcing Federal Air Quality Standards?

April 25, 2015. Since an earlier post briefly described Senate Bill 303 (Protect Safety/Wellbeing of N.C. Citizens), the bill has passéd the Senate in a form that could  put the state’s delegated Clean Air Act permitting and enforcement programs at risk. The bill  passed by the Senate:

♦  Requires a 3/5 vote to of the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) to adopt state rules consistent with federal New Source Performance Standards (NSPS); these  Clean Air Act standards apply to large, stationary sources of air pollutants such as power plants.

♦ Requires a 3/5 vote of the EMC  to adopt new federal hazardous air pollutant (HAP) standards as state rules. The hazardous air pollutant standards regulate emissions of  toxic air pollutants such as mercury and arsenic.

♦ Requires legislative review and approval of all state rules adopting federal air pollution standards.

♦ Prevents the state Division of Air Quality from enforcing existing NSPS and hazardous air pollutant standards after January 1, 2016 unless the EMC has readopted all of those standards under the new requirements for a 3/5 vote of approval and legislative review.

A story  by Gabe Rivin  in N.C. Health News reports that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources  (DENR) supports the bill and  quotes DENR Assistant Secretary Tom Reeder describing the bill as benign. According to the story,  a DENR spokesperson did express concern about the provision that could end state enforcement of existing federal air quality standards on January 1, 2016. (That provision was added to the bill in a floor amendment.)

Failure to adopt and enforce federal Clean Air Act standards could have  serious implications for the state’s delegated Clean Air Act permitting and enforcement authority.   North Carolina  currently has full delegation of authority from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Clean Air Act programs.  (All 50 states have taken on full or partial delegation under the Clean Air Act.)  Failure  to adopt a new federal standard may have a greater or lesser impact on the state’s delegated authority depending on the type of rule.  An end to all state enforcement of federal NSPS and hazardous air pollutant standards would presumably require EPA to withdraw the state’s delegated authority entirely.

Whatever the impact of Senate Bill 303 on state rulemaking, federal air quality standards will continue to apply to sources in North Carolina.   If the state refuses to enforce a federal standard, EPA will step in and do it.  Senate Bill 303 cannot free N.C. industries and utilities from compliance with federal air quality standards. On the other hand,  loss of state delegation under the Clean Air Act may disadvantage those industries and utilities in two ways: 1. permitting and enforcement matters would have to be resolved with EPA rather than a state agency;  and 2.  regulated sources may lose the benefit of  flexibility in permitting and enforcement allowed to states implementing federal requirements through a delegated program.

It isn’t clear who  Senate Bill 303 would  benefit. Assistant Secretary Reeder’s comments suggest the bill could help the department avoid new, burdensome Clean Air Act responsibilities. But the one example offered  —  a new NSPS standard for wood heaters — is entirely enforced by EPA through third-party certification of  manufacturers.  (Find EPA information on enforcement of the wood heater standard here.) Since EPA does not delegate enforcement of the wood heater rule to the states, there is no real danger the state would  be required to visit homes to inspect wood heaters.

The state already has the ability to decline new federal rule delegations and to give up existing delegations under the Clean Air Act.  It seems the kind of decision best made deliberately and after a clear-eyed assessment of the  consequences  — not as a side-effect of failure to adopt a rule by a supermajority.

Update: The original post has been updated to add a link to the EPA webpage on enforcement of the wood heater standard.

Correction: The post has been updated to correctly identify the publication in which Gabe Rivin’s story appeared — N.C. Health News.

N.C. General Assembly: 2015 Environmental Bills

April 15, 2015.   The final bill introduction deadline  fell  yesterday for bills that don’t affect finance or appropriations,  so it is a good time  to look at the environmental bills  introduced and awaiting action. The General Assembly can also amend environmental laws  in the budget bill or by completely rewriting a bill on an entirely different subject, but with that warning in mind:

House Bill 795 SEPA Reform  would  greatly  limit the number of  projects requiring an  environmental impact statement (EIS) under the state’s Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).   Adopted in 1971, SEPA requires an  EIS  for projects that potentially have a significant environmental impact, need a state approval (such as a permit), and involve either the use of public funds or use of public lands.  Unlike its federal counterpart (the National Environmental Policy Act  or “NEPA”), the state law  has never applied to  privately funded development projects no matter how significant the environmental impact. To require an EIS under the state law, there must be public investment ( which could mean either state or local government funding) or use of public land.  Typical projects requiring an EIS in the past would be  a new wastewater treatment plant; a county landfill; a major development project on state-owned submerged lands; or activities on state parkland.

House Bill 795 proposes to  limit SEPA review  to projects involving $20 million or more in public funding or land-disturbing activity affecting 20 acres or more of public land.   It is difficult to know what percentage of projects required to do an EIS in the past would avoid  SEPA review under the amended law, but it is reasonable to assume that many public  projects fall below the $20 million threshold. Controversial proposals for use of state parks and tidelands could also avoid SEPA review because — whatever the other impacts of the project —  an EIS would only be required for land-disturbing activity that permanently alters the landscape and affects 20 acres or more. For projects that exceed the new size and funding thresholds, House Bill 795 provides additional  SEPA exemptions  for projects receiving  certain types of state approvals. Some of the approvals listed in the bill, such as a certificate of convenience and necessity for a  public utility infrastructure project,  do not  involve  any environmental review.  (That particular exemption also doesn’t seem to serve a purpose;   the “public utilities” that need a certificate of convenience and necessity are by definition not owned or operated by a governmental  entity and  don’t involve public funds.)

For projects that would still require an EIS under the amended law, the bill also limits the scope of the EIS.  Under the bill,  the EIS would only describe direct project impacts — eliminating consideration of indirect and cumulative impacts.

Projects  exempted from the EIS requirement would still need  any necessary environmental permits, but permit reviews tend to be more narrow than an EIS. The EIS looks beyond one set of permitting standards to evaluate the environmental impacts of the project as a whole — which can include consideration of noise, traffic, endangered species, historic sites, and effects on minority and low income communities as well as natural resource impacts. Projects that require a federal permit could still trigger NEPA review; what the state may lose is an opportunity for the same comprehensive review and public input on projects that do not require a federal permit —  which may include some landfill projects and inter-basin transfers.

THE OMNIBUS BILLS (AMEND ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS AND REGULATORY REFORM)

In every recent legislative session, the General Assembly has enacted an Amend Environmental Laws bill  and a Regulatory Reform bill. Both bills become vehicles  for multiple changes to environmental laws. See an earlier post for a description of Senate Bill 453, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2015.

At the moment, House Bill 593 (Amend Environmental Laws-2) only  contains provisions amending  state law on reimbursement of third-party damage claims by the state’s petroleum underground storage tank (UST)  trust funds.  (The UST trust funds can reimburse UST owners for up to $1,000,000 in third-party claims for property damage or personal injury resulting from a petroleum release.)  The amendments require the UST owner to provide specific documentation of the third party damage claim; add definitions of “third party”, “bodily injury” and “property damage”;  and provide more  direction on how to calculate  compensation for  property damage.

It is the  nature of  both the Regulatory Reform and Amend Environmental Laws bill to pick up baggage as the session goes along.  Expect new versions of each bill  as the bills move through committee.

Note: This bill is Amend Environmental Laws-2 because  House Bill 157 (Amend Environmental Laws) has already been enacted into law as Session Law 2015-1. H 157 generally made uncontroversial and technical changes to solid waste laws, the Coal Ash Management Act and other environmental laws. The one provision in H 157 that  created some controversy amended a state law requiring the Environmental Management Commission to adopt air toxics rules for hydraulic fracturing sites.The bill replaced the requirement with language authorizing the EMC to adopt  air toxics  standards for fracking sites  if necessary to protect public health, safety, welfare and the environment.

AIR QUALITY

Senate Bill 303  Protect Safety/Wellbeing of N.C. Citizens  prohibits state enforcement of any federal standards for wood heaters used for home heating.  The bill  is interesting as an example of  state legislation intended to nullify  a federal standard.  In February, EPA adopted updated performance standards for wood heaters. Federal air quality rules have included standards for wood heaters since 1988; the new rule updates the standards to reflect changes in technology and to  regulate  wood-burning boilers and wood-burning furnaces as well as wood stoves.   The  revised  standards only apply to newly manufactured wood heaters, phase in over several years and do not affect fireplaces (at all) or wood heaters already in use.  An EPA fact sheet provides an overview of the rule.  Generally, N.C.’s delegated authority to implement Clean Air Act programs  requires the state  to adopt and enforce federal new source performance standards, but EPA has not delegated enforcement of the wood heater rule to the states.

House Bill 169  Limit Motor Vehicle Inspections  eliminates motor vehicle emissions inspections in six counties  (Burke, Granville, Haywood, Rutherford, Surry and Wilkes). Forty-eight of N.C.’s 100 counties require annual emissions inspections as part of the state’s plan to meet the  federal ozone standard under the Clean Air Act. Recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued a  report concluding that emissions inspections could be eliminated in as many as 28-31 counties without  violating either the current ozone standard or the stricter ozone standard EPA  will  finalize by the end of the year. Given the DENR report, expect the number of counties  the bill removes from the emission inspection program to increase.  Since the emissions inspection program has been used to meet a federal air quality standard, any change by the General Assembly must have EPA approval.

House Bill 172 Fracking – Protecting the Public requires the Environmental Management Commission to adopt rules establishing best management practices and  leak detection and repair standards to  minimize air emissions from natural gas operations. The bill approaches the related problems of wasted natural gas and  air pollution by focusing on  ways  to minimize unintended releases resulting from leaky equipment or inefficient practices during exploration, development, production, processing and compression of the natural gas.

House Bill 571 Implementation of Carbon Dioxide Regulations requires DENR  to begin work on a plan to comply with new federal regulations reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants. EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule sets a CO2 reduction goal for each state, but states have flexibility in the mix of power plant emission reductions, renewable energy generation, and energy efficiency measures used to meet the goal.  Find  more background on the federal rule here. Each state  must  submit a plan for meeting its   CO2 reduction goal by June 2016, although EPA can extend the deadline if the plan needs legislative approval or relies on a multi-state strategy.  DENR does not appear to have any effort underway to develop a plan. Instead, DENR has both  questioned the legal basis for the federal rule and urged EPA to delay implementation until lawsuits  challenging the rule  have been resolved. House Bill 571 appears to be intended to push DENR to begin  work  on a CO2 reduction plan and do it in a way that provides for  input from both stakeholders and the public.

COAL ASH

House Bill 448 Extend Coal Ash Structural Fill Moratorium  The Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 put new, stricter standards in place for large projects using coal ash as structural fill .  ( “Large” means > 8,000 tons per acre or > 80,000 tons total).   But the law made few change to existing standards for smaller structural fill projects. Instead, the 2014 bill put a moratorium on permitting smaller structural fill projects  until August 1, 2015 to allow time for DENR and the Environmental Management Commission to study the standards for those projects.  The law required a report back  to the General Assembly by January 15, 2015.  The EMC discussed an interim report in  January,  but the interim  report didn’t address the adequacy of existing structural fill standards for small projects. The interim report indicated that a final report would be released in April; it doesn’t appear that a final report has been issued yet.  In the absence of a report on the adequacy of the existing structural fill standards and recommendations, House Bill 448 would extend the moratorium on permitting smaller projects until August 1, 2016.

COASTAL ISSUES

House Bill 151 Property Insurance Ratemaking Reform is not strictly speaking an environmental bill, but deals with use of models projecting catastrophic losses as a result of a hurricane or other natural disaster in setting property insurance rates. The bill would continue to allow use of models, but would require the results of more than one model to support a property insurance rate change.  The bill is interesting given the longstanding tension between the economic benefits of coastal development and the externalized costs of building in natural hazard areas.

House Bill 302 Strengthen Oyster Industry  requires the Division of Marine Fisheries to study the state’s shellfish lease and franchise programs and make recommendations for changes necessary to increase shellfish  aquaculture on the North Carolina coast. The bill also expands on existing law requiring DMF to plan and construct  oyster sanctuaries in the  Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds; sets new civil penalties for interference with oyster cultivation; and makes other changes designed to increase oyster production. State funding for creation of oyster habitat has seen a steep decline in recent years; some additional resources will likely be needed to make the oyster sanctuary program a reality.

House Bill 346 Counties/Public Trust Areas extends to counties the  authority to enforce local ordinances in public trust areas and particularly on the state’s ocean beaches.  Municipalities already have this authority.

CONTAMINATED SITES

Senate Bill 301 DOT/Purchase of Contaminated Land would exempt the N.C. Department of Transportation from a law enacted in 2013 that  effectively prohibited state agencies from purchasing property with environmental contamination.  As noted in a earlier post about the 2013 law,  the General Assembly may not have realized the far-reaching effects.   Environmental contamination is widespread and state policies allowing polluters to do limited, “risk-based” remediation of groundwater contamination mean the contamination will persist well into the future. The 2013 law exempted the UNC system campuses from the restriction; NCDOT has asked for the same exemption — presumably because the law makes acquisition of property for highway construction more difficult.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Senate Bill 397 Open and Fair Competition Water and Wastewater would prevent a state or local government from “preferring” one type of piping material  for use in a  water, sewer or stormwater infrastructure project receiving state funds.  I don’t know the story behind the bill,  but usually legislation attempting to  change a state agency’s policy about  use of a particular product or system has been introduced in response to complaints by  a  vendor.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

The General Assembly’s internal debate over renewable energy development continues. In 2013,  the Republican majority in the General Assembly split over attempts to repeal both the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS) and the state’s tax credit for investment in renewable energy projects. In the end, a bipartisan majority declined to repeal the incentives for renewable energy development — in large part, because renewable energy had become one of the bright spots in the state’s economic recovery. See an earlier post on the end of the 2013 fight over the REPS.

This session, one focus is on the scheduled sunset of the renewable energy tax credit on January 1, 2016. There are bills in both the House and the Senate to extend the tax credit;  House Bill 454  extends the tax credit until January 12021 and Senate Bill 329 extends the tax credit to January 1, 2020.  Opponents of the tax credit have introduced a bill, Senate Bill 372, that essentially retains the existing January 1, 2016 sunset,  but provides a “safe harbor” for investors who have made substantial outlays on projects not  in service  by the sunset date. Those taxpayers would have an additional year  (until January 1, 2017) to claim the tax credit.

UPDATE:  House Bill 681 would sunset the REPS requirement early, ending in 2018  with a  standard requiring  6% of retail sales of electricity to be generated from renewable sources. The current law requires that  electric public utilities generate 12.5% of retail sales from renewable energy source by 2021 and thereafter.

North Carolina and EPA’s Proposed Carbon Rule

September 30, 2014. On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  released  a draft rule to reduce  carbon dioxide (CO2)  emissions from power plants.  Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration has taken a number of opportunities  to  question the legal basis for the  rule. An earlier post described  a presentation by DENR Deputy Secretary Don van der Vaart  to the N.C.  Energy Policy Council soon after EPA  released the draft rule in June.  DENR actually began staking out a position in opposition to the proposed carbon rule even earlier. (See the DENR website for a number of agency policy documents related to the carbon rule.)  Each time, DENR focused on legal arguments — challenging EPA’s authority to regulate a power plant’s CO2  emissions under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act —  rather than the actual impact of the rule on the state and its electric utilities.

Evaluating the impact of the rule on an  individual state can  be challenging because the rule takes an innovative approach to reducing CO2. Instead of putting the burden and cost of CO2 reductions entirely on the power plants,  the rule tries to harness  other  trends in energy generation — increased  reliance on renewable energy;  adoption of  energy efficiency standards for buildings, appliances and equipment; and a shift in generation from coal-fired plants to natural gas units — to help lower CO2 emissions associated with power generation.  Many of those trends developed in response to other environmental concerns (stricter  air quality  standards for ozone and particulates) or economic incentives (the lower cost of natural gas). EPA’s proposed  carbon rule builds on those trends to also drive down CO2 emissions associated with power generation.

Steps  North Carolina has taken over the last 10-15 years to increase renewable energy  generation and energy efficiency seem to put  the state  in a favorable position to meet the CO2 reduction goal in the rule and come out the other side with competitive energy costs.  This post is intended to provide some  (very basic) background on how the rule works and to  identify the questions that need to be answered to understand what more the state may need to do to meet the CO2 reduction goal in the proposed rule.

BASICS OF THE CLEAN CARBON RULE

♦ The rule only addresses CO2 emissions associated with electric generating units (EGUs) that burn fossil fuels; the rule does not affect industrial sources of CO2.

♦ The rule sets a carbon reduction goal for each state in the form of a rate – pounds of carbon dioxide emitted per megawatt hour of electricity generated or CO2/MWh.

♦ Instead of setting a CO2 emission limit for each EGU, EPA proposed a statewide average CO2 emission rate – allowing the goal to be met in part by shifting electric generation from high to low emission units; increasing renewable energy and nuclear generation; and creating “savings” through energy efficiency measures.

♦ The rate is based on net generation (electricity delivered to the grid) rather than gross generation measured at the EGU. Net generation excludes energy used at the power plant to run fans, pumps, motors and pollution control devices.

♦ The rule sets a final goal for each state to meet in 2030 and interim goals for 2020-2029.

♦  CO2 reduction goals differ from state to state. In calculating the goals, EPA considered the existing mix of electric generation facilities in each state (nuclear, coal, natural gas) and each state’s potential for  increased renewable energy generation and growth in energy efficiency savings.

HOW EPA CALCULATED STATE REDUCTION GOALS (THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT)

State goals are not based on simply requiring  fossil-fuel burning power plants to reduce their CO2 emissions per megawatt hour from 2012 levels.  Although  EPA used the EGU’s 2012 reported emissions of CO2 as one factor in calculating  the goals, it is not quite correct to describe 2012 as the “base year” for reductions.   The state goals represent something different — reductions in EGU emissions combined with a shift in electric generation capacity to cleaner sources (such as renewable energy and nuclear power) and increases in energy efficiency. More about the rate calculation below.

To set the state CO2 emission rate goals, the EPA rule adjusted the  2012 calculation of CO2/MWh in two ways:

1. EPA reduced the net CO2 emissions  reported by regulated EGUs in 2012 (the numerator in the CO2/MWh equation) by assuming those units can achieve a 6% improvement in heat efficiency. In states where there are both coal-fired plants and natural gas plants, EPA adjusted the numerator again if any natural gas plant in the state operated at less than 70% utilization. Assuming  every natural gas plant could operate at 70% utilization, EPA shifted a corresponding amount of electricity generation from  coal-fired plants to the underused natural gas plants and and adjusted the pounds of CO2 emitted to reflect the natural gas plants’ lower CO2 emissions rate.

So the numerator in the goal represents pounds of CO2 emitted by  the state’s existing power plants after each individual plant has become more heat efficient and after power generation across the entire system has been  reallocated  to better utilize low-emission natural gas units. Both adjustments reduce the amount of CO2 generated by the EGUs  below the amount actually reported  in 2012.

2. EPA then adjusts the denominator in the CO2/MWh equation to spread the pounds of CO2 generated  by the EGUs across the megawatt hours generated by all electric generating sources in the state and megawatt hours of electric generation saved through energy efficiency measures. The denominator becomes:  total megawatt hours generated by the EGUs + new renewable energy generating capacity + new or preserved nuclear generation capacity + an estimate of annual avoided power generation associated with demand-side energy efficiency.  (“Preserved” nuclear power refers to  an existing nuclear plant operating beyond a previously announced closure date.)

The final 2030 CO2 emissions goal as a rate =

Net CO2 emissions for regulated EGUs – 6% heat efficiency*
Total net MWh (EGUs + renewable energy + new/preserved nuclear + avoided generation)

* In some cases there has also been an adjustment for under-utilized natural gas plants.

Although the rule does not propose CO2 reductions from any baseline year, EPA has estimated the rule will result in a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions as compared to 2005.

THE NORTH CAROLINA CO2 REDUCTION GOAL

The proposed  2030 goal for North Carolina is  992 lbs CO2/ MWh. By comparison, North Carolina’s electric generating units reported 2012  emissions  of  1647 lbs CO2/ MWh. (Source: Congressional Research Service report.) The EPA rule would require North Carolina to reduce CO2 emissions from:

1647 lbs of CO2 per megawatt hour  of electricity generated by fossil fuel EGUs

to

992 lbs of CO2 per megawatt hour of electricity generated by fossil fuel EGUs + estimated new renewable energy generation+ new or preserved nuclear capacity+ electricity generation avoided by energy efficiency measures

The Clean Power Plan goal does not require  North Carolina power plants to reduce CO2 emissions by 40%.  The rule requires the state’s  electric generation  system  as a whole to  meet demand for electric power at a 40% lower rate of CO2 emissions.

MEETING THE GOAL

The draft EPA  rule  requires  states to  use four “building blocks” to comply; the building blocks correspond to the factors EPA used to calculate each state’s  CO2 reduction goal:

1. Increased heat efficiency at EGUs —  EPA has  assumed each EGU can achieve  6% improvement in heat efficiency.

2. Increased “dispatch” of power generation from higher emission coal-fired units to lower emission Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) plants —   EPA has assumed every NGCC  unit can be operated at 70% utilization.

3. Increased generation of electricity from renewable sources and new or preserved nuclear generation.  EPA has estimated the  potential for growth in renewable energy generation and new or preserved nuclear generation individually for each state.

4. Energy efficiency measures to lower demand,  measured by  megawatt hours of generation avoided. EPA set a  goal of increasing demand-side efficiency by 1.5% annually.

The individual building block goals set out for each state are not requirements. EPA  used  these assumptions and estimates  to calculate  each state’s  CO2 reduction goal, but  the rule allows a state to weight the  building blocks differently in  its  compliance plan.  For example,  difficulty meeting EPA’s expectations  for demand-side energy efficiency can be offset  by increasing renewable energy generation (or vice-versa).

RELYING ON EXISTING PROGRAMS

Media reports have  reflected a lot of confusion about the impact of the proposed rule on states like North Carolina that have already taken significant steps to increase renewable energy and energy efficiency.   The proposed federal rule actually stresses  reliance on programs already in place and gives the states  credit for expanded renewable energy generation or growth in energy efficiency as a result of  existing programs.

In talking about the final state emission rate goals,  the rule notes that  “EPA is also proposing that measures taken by a state or its sources after the date of this proposal, or programs already in place, and which result in CO2 emission reductions at affected EGUs during the 2020-2030 period, would apply toward achievement of the state’s CO2 goal.” 

The rule makes a similar statement about renewable energy generation:  “We note that with the exception of hydropower, the renewable energy generation levels represent total amounts of renewable energy generation, rather than incremental amounts above a particular baseline level. As a result, this RE generation can be supplied by any RE capacity regardless of its date of installation.”

Table 6 in the proposed rule  shows North Carolina’s 2012 renewable energy generation as 2% and a proposed final 2030 goal for North Carolina of  10%.  The  N.C. Utilities Commission has reported that North Carolina electric utilities met the first state Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS) goal of  3% of retail electricity sales in 2012. The final goal under the existing state law will be 10% of retail sales for electric membership corporations/ municipal systems  (by 2018) and 12.5% of retail sales for the electric public utilities (by 2021).  Under the EPA rule, the state will get credit for any new or expanded renewable energy generation in 2014 or later as a result of the existing state REPS requirement.

Since the state REPS goal requires electric utilities to continue to increase renewable energy generation and energy efficiency through 2021,  the increases realized between 2014 and 2021 will also move North Carolina toward the federal goal. To know whether the proposed carbon rule will require the state to do more on renewable energy, the state will need a gap analysis.  The analysis will have to separate  renewable energy generation from energy efficiency savings; the two have been combined in the state REPS goal, but are calculated separately under the federal rule.

The federal rule sets a goal of having every state achieve a 1.5% annual incremental savings based on  demand-side energy efficiency measures.  EPA assumes that states already realizing  a 1.5% in annual incremental savings  will continue  and  maintain that rate through 2029 — giving states that engaged in energy efficiency measures early full credit for the incremental energy savings achieved through existing programs. To understand how close North Carolina may already be to meeting the  carbon rule’s  energy efficiency goal, the state will need to calculate the incremental annual  demand side savings that can be attributed to the state REPS goal and  add incremental savings associated with other energy efficiency programs (such as energy efficiency standards incorporated in the State Building Code).

THE QUESTION

The big  question to be answered is this: How far will North Carolina’s existing renewable energy and energy efficiency programs go toward closing the gap between 1647 lbs CO2/MWh generated by EGUs that burn fossil fuels  and 992 lbs CO2/ MWh generated by power plants+ renewable energy + new/preserved nuclear + generation avoided by energy efficiency?

It appears the remaining gap may be small, giving  North Carolina  an advantage over states that haven’t adopted policies supporting renewable energy generation and energy efficiency.   If so, the advantage will be economic as well as environmental by holding down increases in state energy costs.

RESOURCES

Text of the Clean Carbon Rule (from the June 18, 2014 Federal Register notice)

Congressional Research Service Report: State CO2 Emission Rate Goals in EPA’s Proposed Rule for Existing Power Plants, Jonathan Ramseur, Specialist in Environmental Policy, July 21, 2014.

2013 NC Utilities Commission Annual Report Regarding Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard in North Carolina

NCDENR Questions Legal Basis for Proposed EPA Power Plant Rule

July 22, 2014.  On June 18, 2014, EPA published a proposed  rule to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2)   from existing coal-fired power plants.  Both Duke Energy  and  DENR’s   Division of Air Quality  indicated a detailed review of the draft rule would be required to fully understand the impact  on North Carolina’s electric utilities.    More recently,  Donald van der Vaart, DENR’s Energy Policy Advisor,  made a presentation on  the  proposed CO2 rules to the N.C. Energy  Policy Council. You can find both a video  and a copy of the  powerpoint presentation here.  Rather than discussing the rule’s potential impact on the state’s electric utilities, the presentation questioned the legal basis for the EPA rule.  The  legal analysis identified some legitimate questions about interpretation of the Clean Air Act provision  underlying the CO2 rule,  but the analysis also had significant flaws.

EPA  proposed the CO2 rule under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act,  which authorizes EPA to adopt standards for new and existing sources of air pollution by category; in this case, the category consists of electric generating units burning fossil fuels. (The Clean Air Act also gives EPA two other tools for addressing air pollution —   Section 108 authorizes EPA to adopt  ambient air quality standards to be met on an area-wide basis and Section 112 allows EPA to regulate listed hazardous air pollutants, like mercury,   by source category.)

DENR’s  presentation to the Energy Policy Council offered some criticism of  EPA’s proposed CO2 standard for  new power plants, but  made a more pointed  attack on the  rule addressing emissions from existing power plants. The presentation both questioned EPA  authority to regulate CO2 emissions from existing power plants under Sec. 111(d)  and the appropriateness of including  transition to  natural gas;  expanded use of nuclear power and renewable energy sources;  and energy efficiency  as elements of the performance standard  for existing coal-fired power plants. This post will likewise focus on the  proposed  existing source rule under Sec. 111(d) and particularly the DENR objections to the rule that need  more context or correction:

DENR Objection:  EPA cannot  use Sec. 111(d) of the Clean Air Act  to set a standard for an existing air pollution source  also regulated  under  Sec. 112  (addressing  hazardous air pollutants) even if the standard proposed under Sec. 111(d) addresses a pollutant that is not regulated under Sec. 112.

Counterpoint:   This seems to be  a more open question that the presentation suggests. When Congress added Sec. 111 to the Clean Air Act in 1990,   the  House  version prohibited  use of Sec. 111(d)  to set standards for existing sources regulated under Sec. 112 and the Senate  version prohibited  its use to set standards for pollutants regulated under Sec. 112.  Both versions became part of the Statutes at Large.  EPA has consistently interpreted Sec. 111(d)  to prohibit  adoption of  existing source standards  for pollutants  regulated under Sec. 112.   (See a paper  by Adam Kushner and Judith Coleman on the background of the  Sec. 111(d) language and  EPA’s interpretation.) Under EPA’s interpretation, Sec. 111(d)  can be used to regulate CO2 emissions from existing coal-fired power plants because CO2 has not been regulated under Sec. 112 as a hazardous air pollutant.

As a policy matter, EPA certainly seems to have the better interpretation; otherwise, the language in Sec. 111(d) would create a loophole preventing regulation of a dangerous air pollutant from an existing  source (in this case, a  power plant) simply because the facility  also emits hazardous  air pollutants regulated under Sec. 112.  If EPA’s interpretation is challenged, the question will be whether the court recognizes the existence of a conflict in the statutory history of Sec. 111(d)  and defers to EPA’s interpretation.

DENR quotes the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in support of the more restrictive interpretation of Sec. 111(d), but the NRDC comments concerned  an EPA  rule regulating  mercury emissions  from power plants. Since mercury had been listed as a hazardous air pollutant under Sec. 112,  NRDC challenged EPA’s decision to use Sec. 111 instead of  Sec. 112 as the basis for the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR).  NRDC did not argue that EPA lacked authority to  regulate emissions of other pollutants  from the same source  under Sec. 111 and the federal court decision in the CAMR case did not decide that issue.  (The Kushman/Coleman paper notes that the CAMR decision erroneously says that  EPA conceded a lack of authority.)

DENR Objection: Sec. 111(d) cannot be used to regulate pollutants listed under Sec. 108 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. § 1408).

Counterpoint:  DENR correctly notes that Sec. 111(d) cannot  be used to regulate an air pollutant  already covered by an ambient air quality standard  or  listed for development of an ambient air quality standard under Clean Air Act Sec. 108. But EPA has not adopted an ambient air quality standard for CO2 or listed CO2 under Sec. 108. The  DENR presentation assumes that EPA’s   2009 finding that CO2 (in combination with other greenhouse gasses) endangers public health and welfare  automatically resulted in a  Sec. 108 listing. The 2009 “endangerment” finding was made under Sec. 202 of the Clean Air Act as a necessary first step toward regulating motor vehicle emissions of  greenhouse gasses. But an “endangerment” finding by itself does not cause a pollutant to be listed under Sec. 108. The two are distinct actions.

DENR Objection: Sec. 111(d) requires controls on individual emission sources; the “performance standard”  cannot be met by alternative  CO2 reduction measures (such as energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy sources) allowed under the proposed EPA rule.

Counterpoint: This again appears to be a much more open question than the presentation would suggest. EPA’s proposed rule gives states the flexibility to use measures other than  pollution  controls on existing power plants in developing the “standard of performance”  required under Sec. 111(d).  EPA identifies four “building blocks” : increased efficiency at existing  coal-fired units; transition  from coal to natural gas;  greater reliance on nuclear energy and renewable energy sources; and management of electricity demand.   There may well be a debate over what can be considered a “standard of performance” under Sec. 111, but the question has not been settled. A number of legal scholars endorsed a similarly broad interpretation of the “standard of performance” under Sec. 111  well before release of the proposed EPA rule.  (You can find a  2011 discussion  paper on compliance flexibility under Sec. 111  here.)

EPA’s interpretation is also entitled to deference where Congress has not clearly required (or barred) a particular approach to implementation. The federal court decision cited by  DENR  as rejecting  pollution trading under Sec. 111, ASARCO, Inc. v. EPA,   was effectively overruled by the later U.S. Supreme Court decision in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.,  467 U.S. 837 (1984).    In Chevron, the court upheld  EPA’s interpretation of “stationary source” to encompass all of the emission sources at a facility  —  an outcome  contrary to the earlier ASARCO decision-giving industry the flexibility to modify individual sources at a facility within a facility-wide emissions cap.   The Chevron decision also made a very clear statement about deference to agency interpretation: “When a challenge to an agency construction of a statutory provision, fairly conceptualized, really centers on the wisdom of the agency’s policy rather than whether it is a reasonable choice within a gap left open by Congress, the challenge must fail”.  EPA’s interpretation of the  “standard of performance” language in Sec. 111 to allow greater compliance flexibility and lessen the regulatory burden on electric utilities should be entitled to the same deference.

Whatever the strength or weakness of DENR’s legal analysis of the proposed CO2 rule for existing coal-fired power plants,  the fact of the critique certainly sends a message. It suggests that the McCrory administration may intend to  oppose the proposed rule whether the impact on North Carolina will be positive or negative.

Night of the Living Dead: Board and Commission Reorganization

In House Bill 1011 (Government Reform and Reorganization Act). the  boards and commission reorganization bill rises and walks again.  An earlier bill, Senate Bill 10,  died  when the House refused to adopt  compromise language negotiated with the Senate. The new bill came out of the House Rules Committee last week and quickly passed on the House floor.   Changes to the environmental commissions:

Coastal Resources Commission

— Reduces  the number of CRC members from  15 to 13;  nine members would be appointed by the Governor and  four by legislative leaders

— Eliminates  one at-large seat and the seat on the CRC currently designated for a representative of a  state or national conservation organization.

— Limits the number of CRC members who receive income from real estate development or construction. Seven of thirteen seats on the CRC  would have to be  filled by individuals “who do not derive any significant portion of their income from land development, construction, real estate sales, or lobbying and do not otherwise serve as agents for development related business activities”.

— Requires that all CRC  members be N.C. residents and either  reside or  own property in the coastal area

— Makes the transition to new appointees in two steps.  The bill would end the terms of all  CRC members  on June 30, 2013  with the exception of  the four members who have existing terms ending June 30, 2014.  Those four members are now in seats designated for commercial fishing,  wildlife or sports fishing, local government  and one of the three at-large seats.

Environmental Management Commission

—  Reduces  the number of EMC members to 15; nine members would be appointed by the Governor and six by legislative leadership.

— The bill keeps most of the categories for appointment to the EMC that appear in the existing statute (although in some cases, the number of EMC members in a given category may be reduced or categories have been combined). The bill eliminates the seat currently designated for a member  with public health experience and the seat for a member with experience in local government pollution control activities.

— The terms of all current EMC members would  end  on June 30, 2013. Eight new members will initially be appointed to two year terms and the remaining seven members to four year terms (to stagger the  terms). After the first set of new appointments, all members will be appointed to serve four-year terms.

The  bill also removes conflict of interest language in the EMC appointment statute. See N.C. General Statute 143B-283(c).  Both the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act   have conflict of interest standards  for members of state boards and commissions with  authority to issue federal permits. Under N.C. law, the EMC  has both air quality and water quality permitting authority. Although  the commission has delegated most permit decisions to DENR,  the EMC  still makes some permit and enforcement decisions (such as approval of major variances and civil penalty remissions requests.) To have  — and keep —  delegated permitting authority, North Carolina must meet the federal conflict of interest standards.  The sentence to be repealed closely tracks federal  Clean Air Act language requiring any state commission that approves permits or enforcement orders to have a majority of members who “represent the public interest and do not derive any significant portion of their income from persons subject to permits or enforcement orders under [the delegated air quality permitting program]”. An effort to amend the bill on the House floor to reinstate the conflict of interest language failed.

Wildlife Resources Commission

— Shortens the term for Governor’s appointees to the WRC from  six years to four years. (Members appointed on the recommendation of legislative leadership will continue to serve two-year terms.)

— The terms of all current WRC members would end on June 30, 2013.

— About one-half of the  Governor’s new appointees would be appointed to two-year terms and the remainder to four-year terms (to create staggered terms). After the initial appointments, all Governor’s appointees would be appointed to four-year terms.

House Changes to Senate Bill 10 — The Environment Commissions

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development approved a new version of Senate Bill 10 (reorganizing important state commissions) that  looks very different from  the bill approved by the Senate last week. The changes did not please  Senate bill sponsor Tom Apodaca who appeared in the House committee to present the Senate bill.  The most significant House changes affecting environment commissions:

Coastal Resources Commission

— Increased the number of CRC members from the 11 proposed by the Senate to 13;  nine members would be appointed by the Governor and  four by legislative leaders

— Restored seats representing commercial fishing, sports fishing, wildlife and agriculture.

Like the Senate Bill, the House PCS would eliminate specific seats for members with experience in forestry, finance, marine ecology and conservation.

— Restored language limiting the number of CRC members who receive income from real estate development or construction. The House bill would require that seven of thirteen seats on the CRC  be  filled by individuals “who do not derive any significant portion of their income from land development, construction, real estate sales, or lobbying and do not otherwise serve as agents for development related business activities”.

— Added language requiring that all members be N.C. residents and either  reside or  own property in the coastal area

— Makes the transition in CRC membership  more gradual by allowing four current members to serve for another year.  The bill would end the terms of all  CRC members when the bill becomes law with the exception of four members who have existing terms ending June 30, 2014.  Those four members are now in seats designated for commercial fishing,  wildlife or sports fishing, local government  and one of the three at-large seats.

Environmental Management Commission

— Increases the number of EMC members to 15 (compared to 13 in Senate bill); nine members would be appointed by the Governor and six by legislative leadership.

—  Restores the  seat  for  a person  with experience  in air pollution or air pollution control.

— Adds back a seat for a  member with expertise in fisheries, marine ecology  or fish and wildlife conservation

— Restores the EMC conflict of  interest language. The House bill would require that all of the Governor’s appointees (a majority of the EMC members) must be people who  do not derive any significant portion of their income from “persons subject to permits or enforcement orders” under  the water and air quality statutes.

— Makes a more gradual transition to new appointments, taking the same approach used in the CRC appointments. The terms of all current EMC members would  end March 15, except that  four members would serve out terms  scheduled to end on June 30 2015.  Those four  EMC members now hold  seats earmarked for: agriculture; an engineer with experience in water supply  or in water or air pollution; a citizen interested in water or air pollution; and a person with expertise in air pollution or air pollution control. (As explained by legislative staff, the four EMC members hold over for two years  because of the way EMC terms are staggered.)

After a stop in the House Rules Committee on Thursday,  the bill can go to  the House floor.  From there, it will almost certainly  have to go to a conference committee to work out differences with the Senate.

Senate Bill 10 and Federal Conflict of Interest Laws

A bit more about Senate Bill 10. Both the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act   have conflict of interest standards  for members of state boards and commissions with  authority to issue federal permits. To have  — and keep —  delegated permitting authority, North Carolina must meet those standards. North Carolina law gives the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) authority to issue federal water quality and air quality permits. Although the EMC has delegated much of its permitting authority to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) staff,  the EMC still makes decisions on major variances, declaratory rulings, civil penalty remission requests and final decisions in some administrative  appeals.

Senate Bill 10 removes language in N.C. General Statute 143B-283(c) that has allowed the EMC to meet federal conflict of interest standards. The sentence to be repealed closely tracks Clean Air Act language requiring any state commission that approves permits or enforcement orders to have a majority of members who “represent the public interest and do not derive any significant portion of their income from persons subject to permits or enforcement orders under [the delegated air quality permitting program]”.   Under G.S. 143B-283(c),   at least nine Environmental Management Commission members must not “derive any significant portion of their income from persons subject to permits or enforcement orders under [the water and air quality statutes]”.  (When it was adopted, nine members represented a majority of the EMC; more about that below.) Although the Clean Water Act’s conflict of interest  language is worded differently, EPA has also accepted G.S. 143B-283(c) as meeting requirements for delegation of  water quality permitting authority.

Since the EMC expanded from 17 members to 19 members in 2001,  nine no longer represents a majority of the commission.  EPA picked up on the math problem more than a year ago and began questioning whether North Carolina’s delegated permitting programs  still met federal conflict of interest standards. The question first came up in connection with the air quality program and DENR’s Division of Air Quality has addressed the issue in recent implementation plans for federal air quality standards. DENR seems to have satisfied EPA by making sure that permit-related decisions go to EMC committees that have a “public interest” majority at the committee level.

Complete repeal of the EMC conflict of interest language would force EPA to look at the issue again  under circumstances that make inconsistency with federal standards more difficult to resolve.  The EMC appointment criteria in Senate Bill 10 no longer assure that even EMC committees could have a “public interest” majority.

 

Senate Bill 10: The Environment Commissions

The North Carolina  Senate is considering a bill that would significantly change appointments to several influential state boards and commissions. This post focuses on two commissions affected by Senate Bill 10 — the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) and the Environmental Management Commission (EMC). (This analysis is based on Edition 3 of the bill.)

The bill  immediately  gives the new governor and legislative leadership complete control over  the membership of these commissions by causing the terms of current members to end as soon as the bill becomes law — even though months or years may remain on each member’s statutory  term of office.   Senate Bill 10 also amends the appointment statutes for  the CRC and the EMC to reduce the total number of commission members;  increase the number  appointed by legislative leadership (reducing the governor’s influence);  and change appointment criteria. More detail on changes proposed for each commission below.

The Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) has  authority to adopt rules for development in environmentally sensitive areas of the twenty coastal counties.  Changes proposed in Senate Bill 10 would reduce the number of CRC members from 15 to 11 and for the first time divide appointments among the Governor, President pro tem of the Senate and Speaker of  the House. (Currently all CRC members are appointed by the Governor.)  The bill also changes the criteria for appointing CRC members by:

• Increasing the number of “at-large” members ( who do not have to meet specific appointment criteria).

• Eliminating seats  now earmarked for members with knowledge or experience in coastal fisheries, agriculture, forestry, marine ecology, conservation, and finance.

• Removing the requirement that a super-majority of commission members (13 of the current 15 members) must live in one of the coastal counties.  Under Senate Bill 10, none of the CRC members would have to actually  live in  a coastal county.

• Designating the six seats that have specific appointment criteria for one representative of a coastal business; two representatives of coastal land owners or developers; one  member with experience in a coastal local government; and two members with a background in either coastal engineering or coastal science.

The new appointment criteria raise several concerns. The Coastal Resources Commission regulates development in the twenty coastal counties, but Senate Bill 10 would no longer  guarantee representation of coastal residents on the commission.  The commission would lose scientific expertise, but even more important it would lose the (nonpartisan) political breadth needed to create consensus on controversial coastal policies.   Under the new appointment criteria, it would be possible to have a CRC composed entirely of members representing  business and development interests, leaving participants in other parts of the coastal economy (such as fisheries, forestry, and agriculture) without  influence on major coastal policy decisions.

The bill also changes the membership of the Coastal Resources Advisory Council, a non-regulatory body  created to advise the Coastal Resources Commission.  Most  members of the Advisory Council represent local governments; each coastal county has a representative selected by the county commissioners and other members represent coastal cities or multi-county planning districts.  Senate Bill 10  reduces the total number of Advisory Council members from 45 to 20 and does not set aside any seats for local government representatives.  The change could  leave coastal  local governments with much less influence over coastal policy.

The Environmental Management Commission has responsibility for adopting state air quality, water quality, and water resource standards. Senate Bill 10 reduces the total number of EMC members from 19 to 13. The governor and legislative leaders already share authority to appoint EMC members, but Senate Bill 10 would lessen the governor’s influence on the EMC relative to the General Assembly by reducing the number of governor’s appointees to seven. Legislative leaders would continue to appoint six members,  representing nearly half of the smaller EMC.

The bill  makes significant changes in appointment criteria for EMC members by eliminating seats now earmarked for members with experience in public health, fish and wildlife conservation, groundwater hydrology, local government, and air pollution.  The new criteria proposed for governors appointments would:

• Retain a seat on the EMC for a physician, but no longer require the physician member to have “specialized training and experience in the health effects of environmental pollution”.

• Require the governor to choose between having  members with experience in hydrology,   water pollution control or the effects of water pollution.

• Require the governor to choose between having a  member with expertise in ecology or a member with expertise in air pollution.

• Reduce the three seats on the EMC for members of the public at large who have “an interest in water and air pollution control” to  one at-large member (without the qualifying language).

The  proposed changes in appointment criteria could  result in a commission without  expertise  in critical areas.  In several instances, the governor will be required  to decide which of several areas of environmental expertise to exclude in making appointments.  For example, choices forced by the new  criteria could leave  the  EMC   without  expertise  in air pollution or air pollution control – one of the most complicated and technically demanding subjects that the EMC has to address.   Knowledge of hydrology, water quality,  ecology and air pollution can be found on the DENR staff, but the EMC would lose the independent perspective provided by commissioners with expertise in each of those areas.

By changing EMC appointments, Senate Bill 10 will also indirectly affect the makeup of other environmental commissions that have seats designated for a member of the EMC. Those include the Mining and Energy Commission and the Sedimentation Pollution Control Commission.

Finally, Senate Bill 10 repeals language requiring that at least nine EMC members must be people who do not derive significant income from  activities regulated by the commission.  The language in G.S. 143B-283(c) exists  in part to meet federal requirements for  delegated permitting programs  under the  Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.   Complete repeal of the language may cause EPA to question  North Carolina compliance  with federal rules governing those  delegated  programs. More detail about this issue later.