Northern Michigan University (NMU) has intervened in support of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Air Quality Division (MDEQ) in a PSD (Prevention of Significant Deterioration) permit challenge brought against the MDEQ by the Sierra Club. The permit challenge is presently before the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board in Washington, D.C. This challenge stems from NMU’s plans to build a10 MW plant near the NMU campus to provide heat and power for both the campus and a local hospital. In connection with this project, NMU applied for a PSD permit which was granted by the MDEQ. The Sierra Club challenged the validity of this permit on the premise that the MDEQ violated EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act (CAA) when it failed to conduct a Best Available Control Technology (BACT) analysis for CO2 and N2O emissions associated with the project.

In its response brief asserting the validity of the PSD permit, NMU argued that no BACT analysis for CO2 and N2O was necessary because CO2 and N2O emissions were not “subject to regulation” under the CAA for purposes of the PSD program. The University also described the issue of whether greenhouse gases (GHGs) should be subject to emission controls under the CAA or new legislation as “extremely controversial.” NMU further claimed that:

The PSD permitting process, by contrast, is a case-by-case approach, and individual facility permitting determinations do not have the effect of nationwide regulatory decisions. Thus, it is completely inappropriate for Sierra Club to ask the Board to establish GHG regulation through a “back door” approach.”

Oral arguments are scheduled to begin in Washington, DC on October 22.