I’ve been trying to piece together how regulators didn’t catch the alleged Clean Air Act violation at PGE’s Boardman coal-fired power plant until 12 years after the company first changed its boiler. So, I put a few questions to Andy Ginsburg, air quality division administrator for Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
Ginsburg said Portland General Electric is legally obligated to tell DEQ if it’s doing something that would trigger a Clean Air Act requirement for new pollution controls.
In 1998 and 2004, DEQ checked to see if what PGE was doing at Boardman matched what the company had reported to the state, he said. But the state agency can’t do the kind of detailed analysis the Environmental Protection Agency did without some serious database work.
“In this case, what we saw was pretty consistent with what the company was telling us,” said Ginsburg. “There was no process to cause us to look at it as deeply as the EPA has done.”
Hm…maybe that’s the reason the EPA had to put a national enforcement priority on Clean Air Act compliance for coal-fired power plants.
Ginsburg noted that the state has adopted rules that require PGE to invest $500 million in new pollution controls at Boardman that would cut the same emissions the EPA is worried about by 80 percent. He also gave the Sierra Club a little more credit than the EPA did for suing PGE and drawing more attention to Clean Air Act compliance at Boardman (or lack thereof).