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EPA Acted Properly in Deciding When Stationary Plant Operators Must Obtain a Permit
Description Supreme Court held that the EPA acted within its regulatory authority by defining the same term differently as it applied to two different parts of the Clean Air Act.
Topic Environmental Law
Key Words Clean Air Act, Stationary Sources; Modifications
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) and the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) standards under the Clean Air Act (CAA) cover new and modified stationary sources of air pollution, such as coal-burning electricity plants. Duke Power redesigned parts of coal-fired plants in order to extend their lives. The EPA sued, contending Duke violated the PSD regulations by doing the work without obtaining a permit. Duke argued that the changes to the plants were not “major modifications” that required a permit. The trial and appeals courts agreed with Duke; the EPA appealed.
Decision Vacated and remanded. The EPA was not required to interpret the term “modification” the same in its regulations governing PSD standards and in regulations governing NSPS. Duke contends that the difference in definition of “modification” as applied to a stationary power plant is a regulatory inconsistency that is not proper. That is not correct. The agency was within its power interpreting the CAA in the manner it did as to when permits would be required under the different regulatory standards. PSD and NSPS standards need not be identical. The agency acted property within its regulatory authority.
Citation Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy Corp., 127 S.Ct. 1423 (Sup. Ct., 2007)

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