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Sierra Club Petitions Against Nation’s First GHG Permit

The Sierra Club and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network have filed a legal challenge against the country’s first greenhouse gas (GHG) permit, issued in Louisiana in January.

The environmental groups’ petition urges the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to object to the permit for Nucor Corp.’s direct reduced iron (DRI) plant, issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), the New York Times reported. The groups argue that the permit should have also included a Nucor pig iron plant, raising the total emissions being regulated.

As reported in March, the EPA previously found major problems with the permits. It said the two iron plants should potentially have been treated as one plant, and treating them separately may have prevented several necessary environmental analyses from being carried out.

The agency also told LDEQ that proposed “best available control technology” (BACT) measures were not practically enforceable, and modelling used to predict the plants’ emissions was not thorough.

“Permitting agencies have decades of experience implementing the preconstruction permitting requirements, and it is no different for greenhouse gases than it is for any other pollutant,” Sierra Club attorney Joanne Spalding said. “In this case, the permitting agencies didn’t do a good job, and it’s not only with greenhouse gases — it’s the other pollutants, too.”

But the Natural Resources Defense Council said that while it has some concerns about how permitting was handled for the pig iron plant, the group will not challenge the GHG permit. NRDC attorney Meleah Geertsma said it is encouraging that the state was able to approve a permit so quickly after the GHG rules took effect on January 2.

“Louisiana, at least at the policy level, was objecting to this whole process, and here they are coming out with one of the first permits,” she said.

In related news, a coalition of environmental groups yesterday filed several lawsuits alleging that U.S. agencies have failed to protect the Earth’s atmosphere for future generations, Business Green reports. Our Children’s Trust says it will launch cases in every state and Washington, D.C.

The suits name mostly children and teenagers as individual plaintiffs, and aims to have the atmosphere declared a “public trust” worthy of special protection. The tactic has been used before to clean up polluted coastlines and rivers, Business Green said.

“People have tried pushing legislation and that hasn’t worked,” Alex Loorz, a 16 year-old plaintiff, told the Associated Press. “Obama hasn’t been able to push anything through. The only option we have is the judicial system – taking this to the courts.”

Supreme Court justices recently indicated their skepticism about a lawsuit that seeks to hold power companies accountable for carbon dioxide that crosses state boundaries.

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