PTTG got an extension on their air permit, so now they have until June 21st, 2021 to either enter into a binding contract to build air pollution sources (this would require them to make a Final Investment Decision) or physically start building them on site at Dilles Bottom.
They blamed COVID-19 and other factors as to why they needed an extension. We do not know the 100% absolute truth as to why they have delayed over and over again, however we have many reasons to think it is because of the unstable market conditions and lack of ability to get adequate funding. Read a report describing the risks and shaky outlook of the plant here.
The air permit that PTTG got from Ohio EPA in 2018 expired after 18 months on June 21st, 2020. PTTG initially requested that OEPA automatically extend that permit until February, 2021 because their air permit was under legal appeal (by local residents and groups) for about 8 months, and therefore that delayed their decision-making capacity. OEPA initially extended the permit automatically. It would have been concerning because PTTG could have filed for another 12 month extension in February. This would've given them an additional 8 months before their air permit would've expired again. Five groups—Concerned Ohio River Residents, River Valley Organizing, Buckeye Environmental Network, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and Center for Biological Diversity—represented by the law firm Earthjustice, wrote Ohio EPA warning that Ohio EPA cannot automatically extend PTTG’s permit. We stepped in and cited a U.S. EPA federal law that states this is not legal- that they cannot use the legal appeal of the air permit to get an automatic extension. After receiving our attorney's argument, it appears Ohio EPA required PTTG to officially request a 1 year extension. PTTG did so, and Ohio EPA granted that extension, thereby cutting out 8 months of extra time PTTG would've gotten otherwise.
“The 18-month period to construct exists for a reason. It’s meant to ensure permitting of new sources of pollution accounts for the most up-to-date information on air pollution levels and control technology.” says Megan Hunter, a staff attorney with Earthjustice.
This is a victory. We sought to prevent PTTG and Ohio from using an illegal automatic extension and we won. PTTG could have unlawfully used the free time through February and then sought a formal extension for another year. Now their back is against the wall to work this within a year. We are helping shift the power in our region, a region that has been the O&G industry's playground for too long. PTTG and Ohio EPA now know that groups are not only watching but willing and able to act beyond the initial permit fight. We will keep their feet to the fire. It's important to make companies fight for what they want and to make them explain. We have put PTTG in a defensive position, and we now have more information to work with. We are not victims watching the harmful movements of industry. PTTG's excuses do not take away from our legal arguments should PTTG attempt another extension. Our letter was part of a skirmish and we won.
PTTG has to follow the law just like everyone else. Concerned Ohio River Residents will continue to follow this situation closely to make sure that corporations are held accountable at every corner. We will continue to protect our home and our future Ohio River Valley from any and all threats like this project.
If you have any questions about this situation, please don't hesitate to reach out!
Here is coverage of this story from the Columbus Dispatch: