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EPA Proposes Permit To Allow PREPA To Replace Old Boilers With Turbines at San Juan Power Plant

Release Date: 03/17/1999
Contact Information: Carl Soderberg (787) 729-6951 /

(#99038) SAN JUAN, P.R. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed to issue a permit that would allow the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to increase its electric generating capacity at its San Juan Power Plant while reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid mist and particulate air pollution. The permit would make it possible for PREPA to replace two, decades-old, 44 megawatt boilers with two 232 megawatt combined cycle turbines, which will be powered by gas generated from burning distillate fuel oil. PREPA shut down the old boilers in late 1996, when it applied for a permit to construct the turbines. The permit requires PREPA to use the Best Available Control Technology (BACT) to control emissions of volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide. Although the law does not require it, PREPA has also agreed to use the best available technologies to control the emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. In addition, PREPA has agreed to burn an extremely low sulfur distillate fuel, which contains thirty times less sulfur than the fuel they currently burn.

"These turbines will operate much more efficiently than the old boilers and they will produce less pollution," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Region 2 Administrator. "In fact, if this permit is finalized and PREPA builds these turbines, there would be an overall decrease in emissions of harmful air pollutants like nitrogen oxides, particulates, sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid mist."

As part of its review of the permit, EPA performed an environmental justice review of the project and concluded that the emissions from the two turbines will not result in a disproportionally high and adverse impact on a low-income community. The environmental justice review was conducted in accordance with President Clinton's Executive Order, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations." EPA, after assessing the nature of various pollutants, weather patterns, income levels in the area, concluded that the communities most likely to be affected by the new turbines are not low income and any environmental effects would be minimal and would not pose a health risk.

The proposed permit requires PREPA to adhere to clean air regulations and, in some cases, exceed requirements by using control technologies that are the best available for almost all pollutants. It requires PREPA to control emissions of volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and particulate matter using good combustion practices, including regular maintenance, adherence to the manufacturer's specifications for operation and maintenance of a good fuel to oxygen ratio. The permit would also require PREPA to install a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SRC) technology, which uses ammonia to best control nitrogen oxide emissions.

To ensure that the turbine units and emissions control equipment are operating properly, the proposed permit requires PREPA to conduct performance tests on the turbines and to continuously monitor emission levels and operating conditions. PREPA must operate monitors that will measure, in real time, stack gas concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide and visible emissions from the stack. PREPA would also be required to continuously measure stack temperatures, oxygen levels, fuel flow rates and sulfur and nitrogen content in the fuel to provide information about the operations of the turbines.

According to PREPA, the added electric generating capacity is needed to reduce brownouts and blackouts throughout the Island and to give PREPA emergency power-generating ability that would allow it, among other things, to more easily take other units off-line for repairs. EPA will accept public comments on the draft permit for 60 days. The Agency will hold a formal public hearing on the permit on April 21, 1999.

For more information contact:
Carl Soderberg
EPA Caribbean Environmental Protection Division
1492 Ponce De Leon Avenue
Santurce, PR 00909
Voice: 787-729-6951 FAX: 787-729-7747 E-Mail: