Gina McCarthy


United States Environmental Protection Agency

Ariel Rios Building

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Mail Code: 1101A

Washington, DC 20460


RE: Public Comments on EPA-HQ-OAR-2016-0347, Section 126 Petition from Delaware and Connecticut on Brunner Island Power Plant


We urge the EPA to deny the petition of these states that would require the Brunner Island power plant to add Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology, to switch to 100% natural gas fuel to reduce nitrous oxide emissions, or to move to a 24 hour maximum average emissions regimen for the following reasons:

  • The Brunner Island power plant meets the EPA mandated Pennsylvania State Implementation Plan which limits the nitrous oxide emissions rate to 0.35lbs per million British Thermal Units averaged over 30 days. Meanwhile, Delaware has met the EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 8 hour maximum limit of 75 parts per billion (PPB) for the fourth highest day, averaged for ozone over the last three years, and even met the new 70 PPB limit in 2015.  No action is required under current regulations.
  • A $100 million construction project to convert the Brunner Island power plant to co-firing potential with coal or natural gas will be complete in the spring of 2017, and will significantly lower nitrous oxide emissions in the ozone season (May 1 to September 30) reducing any impact on Delaware.
  • Power plants account for only 7% of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in Delaware, and totally eliminating this source would not significantly change ozone levels.
  • A key assumption of the petitioner’s claims is higher NO2 levels yield higher ozone levels. An analysis of ambient levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3) in New Castle County, Delaware, from 2013 to 2015, show no correlation between higher levels of NO2 and higher levels of ozone.


Brunner Island to Switch to Natural Gas from Coal during the Ozone Season in 2017

A $100 million construction project to convert the Brunner Island power plant to co-firing potential with coal or natural gas will be complete in the spring of 2017, and will significantly lower nitrous oxide emissions which are a precursor for ground level ozone.  Natural gas inherently emits 80% less nitrous oxide during combustion compared to coal.  Natural gas is used as the primary space heating fuel in 56% of homes in the United States according to the US Energy Information Agency so, prices peak in the winter when demand is high (Graph 1). This is why average generation with natural gas fired power plants peaks every summer when prices are lower (Graph 2).  There is a very high probability natural gas will be the fuel used at Brunner Island during the Ozone Season (May 1 to September 30), and would have been used all year in 2015 except for the winter.  The co-firing project meets the same ozone season nitrous oxide emission goals as a $600 million1 SCR project would while offering a lower cost impact for electric customers.  The project also cuts carbon dioxide emissions in half and lowers sulfur dioxide emissions during the period natural gas is used.  Co-firing also offers fuel diversity critical to maintaining electric grid reliability.  Over dependence on natural gas could lead to blackouts during severe winters in the future when natural gas is in tight supply and pipelines might freeze as happened during the 2014 polar vortex.


Graph 1: Pennsylvania Power Plant Fuel Cost 2015 by Month – $/MMBTU

BI graph one

Source: US Energy Information Agency Electric Power Monthly Tables 4.10A and 4.13A

Note: Coal prices are adjusted for lower heat rates but higher operating costs for FGD use  


Graph 2: Seasonal Electric Generating Unit Coal vs. Natural Gas Generation

BI graph two

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly, Short-Term Energy Outlook


Upwind Power Plants Account for a Small Percent of Delaware’s Ambient NO2 Levels

The Delaware petitioner claims that upwind emission sources account for 94% of Delaware’s ozone levels.  By omission, the petitioner leaves the impression the transport of ozone from upwind sources is the problem.  Ground level (tropospheric) ozone is actually produced locally in two general chemical reactions2:

  • The energy of sunlight splits a nitrogen dioxide molecule (NO2) into a nitric oxide molecule (NO) and a free oxygen atom (O). The free oxygen atom combines with an oxygen dioxide molecule (O2) to form ozone (O3).  The reaction reverses fairly quickly as nitric oxide and ozone are very reactive.  Coal fired power plants emit a combination of nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide (which quickly reacts to become nitrogen dioxide) and can be transported by the wind.  NO2 also occurs naturally, and from a variety of manmade sources, primarily motor vehicles.
  • A sunlight split nitrogen dioxide molecule can also react in a complex way with a wide range of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) to form ozone which tends to be longer lasting. VOCs can be generated by natural sources, such as vegetation, and by manmade manufacturing and combustion.  Natural sources can be overwhelming in places like the Great Smokey Mountain National Park which derives its name from naturally occurring ozone in the form of smog.  The VOC source is pinetene from pine trees and ozone levels exceed national air quality standards!


In both cases nitrogen dioxide is considered a catalyst, the reaction can’t occur without it but the amount of nitrogen dioxide is ultimately unchanged over a 24 hour period.  Ozone is highly reactive with any physical surface and can cause injury to plants and animals, especially sensitive people with asthma or COPD.  The local nature of ozone is confirmed by Graph 3 below which shows how ozone forms in the day and falls to essentially zero overnight.  Ozone is also formed in the stratosphere and can be mixed by downdrafts with ground level ozone but that generally occurs in mountainous areas such as the Rockies.


Graph 3: Diurnal Ozone Production

BI graph three

Source: NASA Earth Observatory


There are a number of variables in ozone creation including the amount of sunlight, temperature, wind, humidity, the amount of VOCs, and even ocean breezes as ozone has a longer shelf life over water.  The highest ozone days are on hot summer days grouped around the summer solstice, with low wind and moderate humidity, in urban areas with high VOCs.

The petitioner also leaves the false impression power plants are the main source of ozone precursors.  Power plants account for only 7% of NO2 levels in Delaware.  Electric Generating Units (EGU) emissions are overwhelmed by vehicle and other emission sources as shown in Graph 4 below.  The claim the Brunner Island power plant has a significant impact on ground level ozone levels in Delaware is simply wrong.


Graph 4: NOX Contribution Sources in Delaware

BI graph four

Source: Delmarva Power 2012 IRP “Air Quality & Health Impacts Assessment”, ICF International using 2010 to 2013 average data


There is No Correlation between Higher Levels of Nitrogen Dioxide and Higher Levels of Ozone

The Petitioner relies on modeling from Sonoma Technology Inc. (STI).  They used a computer model based on work done by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to determine downwind dispersion of various emissions, including nitrous oxide, and the chemical reactions related to the emissions.  The model used is the Comprehensive Air Quality Model with Extensions (CAMx) with Ozone Source Apportionment Technology (OSAT). According to the Sonoma report, page 12, “OSAT uses reactive tracers to track the fate of these precursor emissions and the ozone formation resulting from them within a CAMx simulation”.  Unfortunately, STI did no real world, on the ground verification of the validity of the tracers.

Ambient levels of NO2 are currently averaging 19 PPB daily one-hour maximum during the ozone season with a range of 5 to 50 PPB over the years 2013 to 2015 (measured at the Martin Luther King Blvd. air quality monitoring station in Wilmington, Delaware).  The Wilmington site is the only air monitoring station in Delaware regularly measuring NO2.  Monitoring equipment doesn’t always work so we only had data for 346 days out of a possible 459.  The 19 PPB is 80% below the NAAQS 98th percentile, three year average maximum allowed of 100 PPB.  When we ran a statistical correlation between NO2 levels and ozone levels we found the correlation was 0.08, so essentially there was no correlation between the two!  Zero equals no correlation and 1 equals perfect correlation.  The computer may have done an excellent job tracking NO2 concentrations, but the Brunner Island simulation only added 1.9 PPB average to ozone levels with a range of 0.7 to 4.9 PPB according to STI.  However, real world data does not confirm the computer tracer module results.  There was no impact from Brunner Island on Delaware ozone levels.

For further verification we looked at 2013 data from the Lewes, Delaware, air monitoring station which measured NO2 that year.  Lewes is a rural station while Wilmington is more urban.  The Lewes station showed an ozone season average ambient level of NO2 of only 3 PPB, one-sixth as much as Wilmington, with a range of 0.3 to 10 PPB.  The statistical correlation was only 0.01, or once again essentially zero.



The facts do not support the Petitioner’s request to require shorter periods for nitrous oxide emission averaging, such as a 24 hour cap, or to add SCR pollution control equipment at Brunner Island.  We note the link to the report is on a Sierra Club website alongside its “Beyond Coal” campaign that counts down how many coal-fired power plants have been closed on the way to zero.  We suspect the Delaware and Connecticut Air Quality Divisions have responded to an advocacy group call for action to end the use of coal at Brunner Island.   It would not make economic sense to spend $600 million on Brunner Island for SCR on top of the $100 million on-going project to convert to the ability to co-fire with natural gas.  If the EPA grants the petitioner’s request the Brunner Island facility will simply convert 100% to natural gas and the Sierra Club can scratch off another coal plant.  However, electric customers will be worse off with higher winter time electric rates, and the lost reliability of having fuel diversity.  The environmental outcome for ozone comes out the same either way.



1 – Press release from Four Corners Power Plant, Fairmount, NM showing 1636 MW capacity SCR project now under way will cost $635 million.  Brunner Island is about 5% smaller at 1549 MW.

2 – “Chemistry in the Sunlight”, NASA Earth Observatory, http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/ChemistrySunlight/



David T. Stevenson

Director, Center for Energy Competitiveness

e-mail: DavidStevenson@CaesarRodney.org

Phone: 302-236-2050

Fax: 302-827-4558

Delaware and Maryland utility commissions have one more shot to convince electric grid regulators to lower the cost of the Artificial Island Transmission Line.  Governors Markell and Hogan have joined forces to fight the burdensome cost of this project, but a new approach is needed.  If we want to win this fight we need to negotiate using an alternative approach.  More local power generation could replace the transmission line.  This could lead to lower electric rates instead of higher rates, to a more robust economy, and to improved electric reliability.


The Artificial Island project is a technical response to importation of power.  Maryland and Delaware are the second and fifth highest electricity importing states in the country.  In 2015 Maryland imported 41% of its power, and Delaware imported 32%.


Importing power lowers electric grid reliability.  It also adds cost.  Regional grid manager, PJM Interconnection, is responsible for maintaining reliability with a combination of pricing mechanisms, and transmission line policy.  There are line charges to compensate for longer power transmission distances, congestion charges to encourage lower peak demand, and capacity charges to encourage more local generation.  See the graph below to see how these premiums can go.  These premium charges roughly equal the added monthly costs of the proposed transmission line, are already added to our electric bills, and most of the cost will continue even if the new transmission line is built!


Cost Premiums in Delaware & Maryland for Grid Congestion and Transmission Cost

dave stevenson Artificial Island

Source: PJM Interconnection Real Time Statistics

So, how do we boost local generation?  Start by asking electric generation and distribution companies already invested in the state what state policies would encourage more generation.  State policies led to lower local generation in very real ways and changed policies can help reverse the trend.  Prepare to kill some sacred cows when we hear the answers.


Maryland and Delaware are the only two states in the thirteen state PJM region with a tax on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.  The cost of that tax is passed on as a hidden tax on electric bills.  Our generating facilities burning coal and natural gas have to charge more, and lose bids to supply power.  Consequently, local power plants operate less frequently.  For example, the Indian River power plant in Millsboro, Delaware, is only operating 20% of the time compared to an average of 55% for coal fired plants nationally.


The tax was designed to reduce emissions but all it has really done is shifted the emissions out of state, and discouraged power plant construction locally.  The revenue was supposed to be used for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, but after a decade of work only a quarter of annual tax revenue is being spent on such projects.  Ending the tax would lower electricity prices and would allow more power to be generated locally.


In Delaware we only need to build the equivalent of three to four new power plants to become self-sufficient.  Calpine recently completed a new natural gas fired power unit in Dover and has the permits needed for a second unit.  What incentive does Calpine need to build the second unit?


Exelon recently acquired Delmarva Power, the state’s largest electric distribution company, and is one of the largest generation companies in the nation.  A decade ago distribution companies owned all the generation facilities as well with a guaranteed rate of return regulated by the Public Service Commission.  Delaware and Maryland joined a handful of other states in deregulating the price of generated power thinking this would increase competition and lower electric cost.  The actual result was the sale of generating facilities and a 70% increase in electric rates in the deregulated states.  Partial reregulation might encourage distribution companies to build at least some new generation capacity.


Exelon is one of the largest builders of large scale solar farms in the country.  A little known fact is utility scale solar is now essentially competitive with conventional power plants during high demand daylight hours.  Delaware policy has emphasized building smaller scale systems that actually add cost to our electric bills.  Yes, in this case bigger is better and a policy change is needed.


Land acquisition is a barrier to building more solar.  The state could offer marginal state owned open space land for long term lease for solar farms to lower start-up costs.  The revenue could be used for state park operations.


No doubt a dialogue to boost local power generation would uncover more opportunities.  The result would not only avoid the added cost of the Artificial Island project but might lower existing electric rates by as much as 15% removing a barrier to job creation, and could lead to up to a billion dollars in new construction projects.   

David T. Stevenson, Director

Center for Energy Competitiveness



State support for higher education is slipping with one large exception at the University of Delaware. One department, actually one individual, at the university is slated for a 38% increase according to the latest draft of the state budget.  This is in contrast to the state contribution for university operating expenses falling from about 21% in 2000 to about 12%, according to the University’s 2015 Investment Office Annual Report.

The currently proposed 2017 Fiscal Year proposed budget consists of fifty-nine pages of tables of budget numbers by department, and two hundred and twenty-six pages of “epilogue” language.  The epilogue pages are similar to footnotes and most of it is innocuous and a pretty boring read.  It can also be a place where bad policy goes to hide.

This may be the case with Section 285, page 199, which reads:

Section 285. Section 1 of this Act makes an appropriation to Higher Education, University of Delaware  (90-01-01) for the College of Arts and Sciences. Of this amount, $290,000 shall be allocated to the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy for research supervised by Dr. John Byrne as principal investigator

Yes, while other departments struggle as costs rise faster than state contributions, Dr. Byrne is expecting $290,000 to use as he sees fit, not even with direction for what he is researching.  The transfer effectively raises the earth sciences budget 38%.  Dr. Byrne and the University of Delaware have not responded to requests for comment.  A similar transfer was authorized in the last three year’s budgets but was designated more generally to the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy run by Dr. Byrne.

Unlike specific legislative bills there is no acknowledged sponsor of epilogue language.  However, Dr. Byrne and State Senator Harris McDowell (D – Wilmington North) have worked together for over a decade.  Senator McDowell is Co-Chairman of the Joint Finance Committee that writes the budget, and of the Senate Energy Committee.  Dr. Byrne and Senator McDowell jointly chaired the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) and its Oversight Committee over the last decade.  Dr. Byrne would be expected to consult with Senator McDowell in his role with the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy.  The obvious question is Dr. Byrne getting special treatment in the state budget because of his relationship with Senator McDowell.  Senator McDowell has not responded to requests for comment.

Senator Greg Lavelle (R – Sharpley) commented, “Based on the fact Dr. Byrne’s name is specifically mentioned in the epilogue language is a unique event, and we will be asking questions”.  He went on to say. “It would make one think that authority for use of the funds rests with Dr. Byrne and not the Center for Energy & Environmental Policy”, or the University.

David T. Stevenson, Policy Director

Center for Economic Policy


Brexit Insight

Texas has sued the federal government forty-four times since President Obama began his campaign of executive overreach, and has often won in the courts.  The presidential election will offer an opportunity to reverse many of this administrations attempts at over regulation.  Britain, and other members of the European Union have no legal recourse or a direct election to fight back on similar over regulation and overreach by technocrats in the EU.  That was the primary reason Britain voted to leave the EU.

By happenstance I was in the United Kingdom for the run up to the election, and was following the campaign for personal investment reasons.  The chance to talk to people in London and Scotland left little doubt “Leave” would win.  Britain, like America, has a long history of valuing independence and individual freedom.  After all this is where the Magna Carta was signed, and where the only successful attack on the Tower of London fortress was carried out by the common people when military attacks all failed.

The same strains exist in the US and will play a major role in the coming election, including a desire for more control of our borders.  People here are just as tired of senseless rules coming out of Washington as the British were with senseless rules coming out of Brussels.  Look for the same vicious attacks on those who want better immigration controls here as argued by the “Remain” campaign.  You can also expect the same polling bias.  Late polls showed “Remain” leading 52% to 48%, but “Leave” won with 52%.  Betting pools and the trading futures market also badly missed the results.  I suspect some “Leave” supporters lied to pollsters in fear of expressing their real feelings on the matter.

Expect volatility in the stock markets for a time as this vote really was a hinge point in history and it will take a while for things to settle down.  In the long run the world economy will be stronger and we will see specific benefits in the US and the UK.  The UK has one of the fastest growing economies in Europe and is the second largest European economy.  Older voters who supported the referendum remembered the time before the EU and how their country was successful and sovereign.  It will be so again.

There is a lot of press on this issue. For the best analysis I’ve seen follow this Wall Street Journal link:  http://www.wsj.com/articles/brexit-a-very-british-revolution-1466800383

David T. Stevenson, Policy Director

Center for Economic Policy





Sometimes we have to go beyond Delaware’s borders to protect the pocket books of our residents.  CRI has become a resource in the national fight to oppose taxes and regulations that misrepresents bad policy as critical to improving the environment.  We joined AEA in petitioning Congress to pass this important resolution.

Illegal tactics used by the EPA in drafting the so-called Clean Power Plan have been stayed by the US Supreme Court following a legal strategy encouraged by the CRI team.  The EPA called for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions to gain the agencies approval for individual state compliance plans.  EPA Director Gina McCarthy, and past Department of Energy Assistant Energy Secretary Charles McConnell both have stated the Clean Power Plan will have no impact on global warming but could add billions in energy costs.  McConnell describes how the plan is “all pain, and no gain”, how electric rates could see double digit increases, impact the poor and middleclass the most, and how the emissions savings would be replaced by three weeks output from China.

The resolution opposes the misguided plan to impose these unnecessary taxes.


David T. Stevenson

Director, Center for Energy Competitiveness

Delaware spends more than 46 other states for per-capita spending per resident, at nearly $9,800 per person per year (National Association of State Budget Officers and the Kaiser Family  Foundation). The News Journal decided to explore this topic in an editorial:

Tax dollars not buying progress for Delaware

How much is it going to cost?

That’s a question we ask ourselves almost daily, whether we’re at Wawa for gas or on amazon.com for, well, you name it.

That’s a question we rely upon our lawmakers to answer when it comes to the major issues facing Delaware.

Lawmakers asked those questions on Thursday.

First, the Board of Education declined to approve the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s plan in part because board members want clearer cost estimates.

Then, after Gov. Jack Markell’s final State of the State address, some lawmakers wondered if taxpayers are already spending too much on education.

Based on the health of our state, the question shouldn’t be “How much is it going to cost?” Rather, we need to start asking “What are we getting in return?”


Let’s hope this year our public decision-makers figure out how to balance thew budget without negatively impacting our lives or the future of the state.

Do you believe we’re getting our money’s worth from state spending? Why or why not?

Rebecca Friedrichs. (Photo by Christi Ransom)

photo Christi Ransom, Washington Post

The National Right to Work Committee has been very active in the national movement to bring Paycheck Protection to American workers. One case the entire nation is following is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case which could essentially place Right to Work/Paycheck Protection as protected by the U.S. Constitution for every state everywhere, including states like Delaware which currently do not guarantee a worker’s right to not pay union dues and not receive union benefits.

The video below is from YouTube and discusses the case, as well as the implications depending on how the Court could rule.

here’s the link to their blogpost in full in full:


Which way will the court rule? What would happen if all of Paycheck Protection became national law?