EPA resolves air violations with Calif. biomass power plant

By U.S. EPA | January 30, 2013

The U.S. EPA has announced a $145,000 settlement with Thermal Energy Development Partnership, a biomass electric power plant in Tracy, Calif., for Clean Air Act violations for failure to properly operate and maintain emission monitoring equipment.

“EPA will continue to rigorously enforce against facilities located in the San Joaquin Valley, a geographic focus for our regional Strategic Plan. The message is simple: facilities must comply with the requirements to monitor their pollutants,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “With some of the poorest air quality in the nation, the Valley cannot afford to risk any further deterioration.”

The permits required the facility to properly maintain and operate a continuous emission monitoring system. Thermal Energy’s monitoring equipment failed to monitor sulfur dioxide for 30 months, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide for 27 months, and opacity for 9 months. There were no known emission violations.

The Clean Air Act violations by Thermal Energy were under the federal New Source Performance Standard which applies to steam generators constructed after June 19, 1984 and have a heat input capacity from combusted fuels greater than 100 million BTUs (British thermal units) per hour. Also considered in the settlement were the federally enforceable San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District permit conditions.

Company failure to operate emissions monitors properly can result in illegal releases of pollutants into the atmosphere. Facilities are required to properly maintain and operate emissions monitoring equipment to measure the release of pollutants and help protect human health. For more information on the Clean Air Act, please visit the EPA’s website at:

Particle pollution can cause serious health problems ranging from aggravated asthma to premature death in people with heart and lung disease. Exposure to high concentrations of sulfur dioxide can have serious impacts on breathing, respiratory illness, alterations in pulmonary defenses, and aggravation of existing cardiovascular disease.

The San Joaquin Valley, with an economy driven by agriculture, suffers from high rates of poverty and unemployment. Its unique topography and wind patterns have also resulted in severe impacts to the public health. Poor air quality, due in part to high-volume truck traffic, has resulted in some of the highest rates of childhood asthma in California. We are working together with our federal, state, and local partners to improve the quality of life for the 4 million residents in the Valley. The EPA Pacific Southwest Region’s 2011-2014 Strategic Plan for the San Joaquin Valley may be found here.