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Permit Process for Storage and Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulates the storage and disposal of residuals generated by coal-fired power plants in the state. The following information will give you an overview to better understand the state’s licensing and permitting processes as it pertains to power plants.

Overview of DEP’s Coordinated Effort

DEP’s Siting Coordination implements the state’s licensing program, and the Divisions of Waste Management, Water Resource Management, and Air Resources Management implement various state and federally delegated or approved permitting programs that regulate these plants. Each facility is evaluated individually based on the plant’s size, processes, and waste streams. An application for a license or a permit is given the appropriate review and analysis, and it is processed under the applicable licensing or permitting procedures.

Determining Factors in DEP’s Permit Process

The Power Plant Siting Act (PPSA), ss. 403.501-.518, F.S., is the state’s centralized process for licensing large power plants. One license - a certification - replaces local and state permits. Local governments and state agencies within whose jurisdiction the power plant is to be built participate in the process. Certification addresses permitting, land use and zoning, and property interests. A certification grants approval for the location of the power plant and its associated facilities such as a natural gas pipeline supplying the plant's fuel, rail lines for bringing coal to the site, and roadways and electrical transmission lines carrying power to the electrical grid, among others. Certification does not include licenses required by the federal government. The PPSA applies to all steam or solar electrical generating facilities that:

  1. Generate 75 megawatts or more.
  2. Applications occurred after July 1, 1973.

Under current state law, licenses are issued for the lifetime of the plant. Hence, a plant that received a license twenty years ago could still operate under that original license provided certain plant modifications had not taken place since its original issuance. According to the Statute, there are three ways which a license issued under the PPSA may be modified:

  1. The Department may modify specific conditions of a certification which are inconsistent with the terms of any federally delegated or approved permit for the certified electrical power plant.
  2. The licensee may file a petition for modification with the department.
  3. The Department may initiate the modification upon its own initiative.

Note: “2.” and “3.” above may only be done if no party to the certification hearing objects (we serve notice on them). Should objections be raised by any party (including the licensee) to the draft issuance of the modification, the objection is referred to the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).

Only federal permits are issued separately from a license; these include National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for industrial wastewater, domestic wastewater, or stormwater discharging from the site into surface waters of the state; Underground Injection Control (UIC); and PSD/Title V operating permits for sources of air pollution.

Pre-1973 Facilities

Since the PPSA was not in effect before being enacted by the Legislature in 1973, power plants constructed prior to October 1973 are permitted through regular (individual) permitting processes. Individual permits issued by DEP generally expire five years after the issuance date of the original permit. The permit renewal process requires that both a technical review and an environmental review be performed for each application. Section 403 of the Florida Statutes, Chapter 62 of the Florida Administrative Code, and Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations contain the requirements for these reviews and various other publications provide general process guidance to both the applicant and the reviewer. A renewed permit reflects the latest applicable environmental standards and monitoring requirements. However, a permit may be reopened and revised prior to its expiration based on structural or operation changes at the plant, new requirements, or monitoring data.

Other Permitting Issues: Smaller Power Plants

Additionally, the PPSA would not be applicable to small power plants (less than 75 MW), and these facilities would be individually permitted as appropriate under the groundwater, ERP, NPDES, Solid Waste and Air Program(s).

403.506 (1) The provisions of this act shall apply to any electrical power plant as defined herein, except that the provisions of this act shall not apply to any electrical power plant of less than 75 megawatts in gross capacity, including its associated facilities, unless the applicant has elected to apply for certification of such electrical power plant under this act.

Some facilities have electric generation units which were permitted both prior to the passage of the PPSA and after the PPSA. Different procedures and coordination contacts may apply for the same site’s differing units. Currently, as required by existing rule and statute, power plants in the state of Florida are permitted or licensed, and required to monitor groundwater impacts from ash storage areas or settling ponds by one of the following ways:

  • A National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit that includes a groundwater monitoring plan
  • A separate groundwater permit
  • A Solid Waste permit
  • Conditions of certification under the Florida PPSA.

PPSA License Information

The Department of Environmental Protection’s website contains a listing of all licenses for sites regulated under the Power Plant Siting Act (PPSA): http://www.dep.state.fl.us/siting/certification.htm

The requirements and protections put in place are not compromised, lessened or circumvented by being processed under the PPSA. Site certification (licensing) supersedes and encompasses ALL state and local permits and approvals. Simply stated, it is a one-stop permit, which incorporates all state and local requirements into a single license, approved by the Siting Board. The conditions are the same conditions that would normally go into the individual, state, or local permits. As discussed above, certification does not supersede Federal permitting processes (PSD, NPDES, UIC).

Coal Ash

There are three different forms of ash, which are categorized by the process in which ash is generated:

  1. Fly ash: Exhaust gases leaving the combustion chamber of a coal-fired boiler entrain particles during the coal combustion process. To prevent fly ash from entering the atmosphere, power plants use various collection devices to remove it from the gases that are leaving the stack. Fly ash is the finest of coal ash particles.
  2. Bottom ash: With grain sizes ranging from fine sand to fine gravel, bottom ash is coarser than fly ash. Facilities collect bottom ash from the floor of coal fired boilers. The physical characteristics of the bottom ash depend on the characteristics of the boiler.
  3. Boiler slag: Boiler slag consists of molten ash collected at the base of cyclone and pulverized coal boilers. Facilities cool boiler slag with water, which then shatters into black, angular pieces ranging in size from course sand to fine gravel and have a smooth appearance.

Coal Ash Handling Systems

Ash handling systems can be generally categorized as dry or wet. In dry systems, ash is wetted to 10-20% moisture to reduce dust generated during transportation to ash storage areas. Not all power plant ash storage areas are required to be lined. Generally, this “unlined” situation applies to the older coal-fired plants. However, at those facilities (as well as the newer ones) groundwater monitoring networks are in place to ensure the integrity of those unlined storage areas.

In wet systems, ash is mixed with water to produce a liquid slurry containing 5-10% solids by weight. This is discharged to settling ponds. The ponds may be used as the final disposal site, or the settled solids may be dredged and removed for disposal in a landfill or reused beneficially. Decanted water from settling ponds can be reused to produce slurry.

Highlights Include Page - Solid Waste

Last updated: September 26, 2013

Permitting and Compliance Assistance Program #850-245-8707 MS #4550

 

Division of Waste Management #850-245-8705 MS #4500
2600 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400

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