Response asks board to leave permit deal intact
By Chris Wetterich, Staff Writer
The Sierra Club on Tuesday asked the U.S. Environmental Appeals Board to leave intact City Water, Light and Power’s construction permit for its new coal-fired generator, which includes the purchase of wind power and emissions reductions the environmental group negotiated.
Its filing is in response to Springfield developer David Maulding’s request last week that the appeals board review the permit and strip it of the Sierra Club-negotiated requirements.
The group’s agreement with CWLP requires the city-owned utility to buy wind power to offset its emissions of carbon dioxide; reduce nitrous oxide, mercury and other pollutants below what current law requires; improve the efficiency of its existing generators; and bolster conservation.
Maulding and his attorney, Don Craven, contend that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority when it added such requirements to CWLP’s permit.
The Sierra Club, in its filing Tuesday, also told the appeals board that if Maulding’s petition is successful and the provisions of the deal are struck, the original permit should be sent back to the IEPA for review because it does not comply with the law.
Becki Clayborn, the Sierra Club’s Midwest regional representative, said the organization is doing what it can to salvage the first-of-its-kind deal. She said she hopes Maulding’s appeal can be dealt with quickly so as to not further delay construction of CWLP’s 200-megawatt generator.
“If we don’t have that in the permit, we need to push the Illinois EPA to do more with the permit,” she said. “Our primary goal is to get the agreement back on track. We put a lot of work into that.”
She also acknowledged that the agreement between the city and the Sierra Club is legally dead because of Maulding’s appeal. Language inserted in the final version of the deal voided it if anyone formally objected to the city’s permit.
“As soon as he appealed, our agreement became null and void,” Clayborn said. “We need to get back in place. The first thing that needed to happen was to defend our position with the environment appeals board.”
Asked if the deal could be resuscitated if the appeals board rejects Maulding’s appeal, Clayborn said, “That’s something the lawyers are going to have to work on. I’m not sure how it will happen.”
By putting the agreement’s provisions in the permit, the IEPA would enforce its terms. Maulding’s petition says the IEPA failed, as required by law, to state reasons why the original permit was changed to allow such additional regulations.
“The process by which this permit was issued raises a very serious public policy issue,” Maulding’s filing says. “This entire regulatory process is designed to allow development of new power plants with acceptable, uniform regulatory guidelines.
“The Sierra Club has used the threat of delay, by reason of an appeal of the permit, to impose on the city, and on IEPA, matters that would not normally be involved in the process.”
It’s unclear whether the city will back out of the deal now that it can and now that it faces the prospect of further delays in construction of the new power plant.
The administration of Mayor Tim Davlin, in arguing for quick passage of the Sierra Club agreement, had said the daily cost of a delay could be as much as $350,000, although many have questioned that figure.
Whether the city is willing to incur those costs while waiting to see if the Sierra Club succeeds before the appeals board, plus pay the $37 million for wind power, emissions reductions and other expenses associated with the deal, is anyone’s guess.
Mayoral spokesman Ernie Slottag declined to characterize the deal as dead or say whether the city would comply even though it is no longer legally required to do so. He said the city had not seen the Sierra Club’s filing late Tuesday.
“We have to find out what the substance of it is,” Slottag said.
Clayborn said she hoped the issues before the appeals board, which is a branch of the U.S. EPA, could be resolved in a matter of weeks. But earlier, lawyers hired by the city to shepherd the CWLP permit through the process, said such appeals can last as much as a year or longer.
Craven said Maulding filed his petition out of concern about the agreement’s potential costs. Republican aldermen asked for an independent assessment of the deal’s costs, but Davlin and the Democratic aldermen refused.
Maulding, who attended city council meetings about the CWLP deal, has said his actions have nothing to do with his legal skirmishes with the city over warehouses he wanted to build.
A federal judge ordered aldermen to approve construction of the warehouses, but Maulding lost his case for compensation for lost revenue as a result of the council’s initial denial of his warehouse plan.
Craven said he could not comment on the Sierra Club’s filing because he had not yet seen it.
The city council’s utilities committee is expected to discuss the situation at its regular meeting today at noon on the third floor of Municipal Center West at Eighth and Monroe streets.
Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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