EPA Strains RICE Through the Reliability Screen: Rules on Pollution from Reciprocating Engines Modified To Reflect Reliability Requirements
On January 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") issued new rules governing pollution from Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines ("RICE") used for emergency electric generation. The new rules have been amended substantially to reflect electric system reliability requirements because RICE are frequently used for emergency and back-up power, helping to prevent blackouts when the grid is strained by outages in primary units, voltage deviations, or other reliability problems. The rules are of particular interest to Northwest entities that may use diesel generators for back-up or reliability purposes. The rules are also of great interest to rural communities in Alaska, which frequently rely on RICE for generating their electric power and for whom the new rule makes some special accommodations.
The new rule amends the limits for hazardous air pollutants ("NESHAP" in EPA-speak) aimed at controlling pollutants such as formaldehyde from stationary RICE, such as diesel-powered generators. Until 2010, stationary engines of 500 HP or less were not regulated under the relevant NESHAP rules. At that time, EPA issued rules that would have extended regulation to stationary engines of this size, but would have allowed limited exemptions for emergency engines operating less than 15 hours per year. Because the 15-hour-per-year limitation did not square with electric industry standards, representatives of the electric industry asked FERC to reconsider this limitation.