Coal Tattoo

TransGas has announced that it plans to hold a groundbreaking ceremony next week for its proposed coal-to-gas project in Mingo County, W.Va. But the Sierra Club is cautioning the company against actually starting construction of the facility.

In this letter to TransGas lawyer David Yaussy, the Sierra Club reminds the company that it has yet to receive its final air pollution permit from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The letter says:

Pursuant to West Virginia and federal law, the company cannot construct a major source of air pollution without a Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit … Nor can the company move forward with construction of a minor source without a final minor source permit.

While a mere ‘groundbreaking’ does not meet the definition of  ‘construction’ under the Act … TransGas faces significant risk if it moves forward with constructing the source itself. Doing so without the proper permit could subject your client to both federal and citizen enforcement actions, even if the state permitting authority has condoned the project.

Interestingly, the Sierra Club tells me:

WVDEP is taking the position that TransGas can go ahead and construct while they are fixing their permit.

I’ve tried to ask WVDEP about that, but agency officials have not responded to my questions.

Another interesting thing here is that this permit somehow ended up being vacated, reversed or re-issued after July 1, 2011, TransGas could eventually find itself covered by whatever greenhouse gas emissions regulations the U.S. EPA one day issues.

We’ve discussed before on this blog how what TransGas will do with its carbon dioxide emissions is really the biggest question facing this project and its backers. (Not for nothing, but the TransGas lawyer, Dave Yaussy, is among those in West Virginia who refuse to accept the overwhelming scientific consensus about global warming).

Just last month, the state Economic Development Authority approved the issuance of $3 billion in bonds for the TransGas project, but my understanding is that these aren’t the typical tax-free bonds the EDA approves as a way to encourage such projects.  As George Hohmann over at the Daily Mail explained (subscription required):

David Warner, executive director of the West Virginia Development Authority, said there is no limit to the amount of taxable bonds the authority can authorize in a year.

Also particularly interesting here is that Randall Harris (who Coal Tattoo readers know for his work on mine rescue technology for the state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training) is working as both project manager for TransGas (subscription required) and as project director for the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, which is promoting the project locally.

Stay tuned …