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EPA blesses corporate polluters while putting screws to the little guys
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The Environmental Protection Agency has a cow over methane gas in the San Joaquin Valley.

They lecture us for not doing enough even though we’ve cut emissions by more than half based on EPA standards during the last 20 years while doubling population since 1980.

Air quality doesn’t meet attainment levels one day out of 365 days and the region is slapped with a $29 million fine that will add $2 onto the registration of every vehicle in the San Joaquin Valley next year.

They then roll out new mandates to further reduce emission by 90 percent or else the EPA will ban new businesses from locating in the valley or existing ones from expanding. The mandates, by the way, can’t be met even if every vehicle were taken off the roads tomorrow and replaced with all electric cars.

So you’d think if a for-profit energy firm wants to build natural gas power plant smack dab in the middle of a region with the worst air in the country that they’d have to meet all the EPA standards just like everyone else does.

Guess again. The EPA has granted an air pollution permit exempting Avenal Power Center from current air quality standards. The permit authorizes the building and operation of a 600-megawatt plant near the rural communities of Avenal and Kettleman City.

The EPA decided the plant won’t have to meet air pollution requirements adopted in 2009 for nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions because the agency took too long to process its application.

Its logic you can choke on.

The message from the EPA is clear. Only the chosen ones - those with connections that don’t live here in the valley who want to build something that pollutes to generate profits - are allowed to skirt the rules.

Back in 2002 Manteca approached state air quality folks with a proposal. They wanted to put in place a co-generation plant at the wastewater treatment facility to capture methane gas to generate electricity.

The power generated would be used to help run the treatment facility that has a $1 million-plus annual appetite for electricity. It was a win-win-win. Methane gas instead of being released would be used to generate electricity. That in turn would reduce the need to burn coal or natural gas to create electricity to run the wastewater treatment facility. And, as a bonus, it would reduce operational costs at the wastewater treatment plant.

The co-gen project would create emissions but the end results would be a significant reduction in overall air pollution.

The city got an OK to proceed. They ordered the $600,000-plus co-gen plant. A funny thing happened, though, as the equipment was en route to Manteca. The air quality emissions rules changed. That meant the co-gen plant could not be installed even though in doing so there would still be a significant net drop in overall pollution between methane gas that didn’t pollute the air and byproduct emissions from the co-gen plant.

In the case of the Avenal natural gas power plant, there will be a net gain in air pollution, period.

In both cases the rules changed mid-course.

So what is the difference between Avenal Power Center and the City of Manteca?

It’s obvious. A power company has a lot more political clout with big government than the people of Manteca. It’s about corporate profit vs. saving the taxpayers money that bail out big corporations.

It’s as simple as that.