Missoula, Montana, health department denies appeals filed against air quality permit issued for University of Montana's US$16M biomass boiler project, modifies permit to allow denser smokestack emissions during maintenance periods

LOS ANGELES , September 20, 2011 () – The University of Montana’s (UM) air quality permit for its proposed US$16 million gasification boiler will not be revoked as requested in an appeal by opponents, according to a decision on Friday by the Missoula City-County Health Dept., reported The Missoulian on Sept. 16.

A coalition of conservation groups that included the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Wild Swan and the Montana Ecosystem Defense Council opposed the permit, indicating concerns that UM’s switch to woody biomass from natural gas would add to air pollution and global warming.

However, the biomass boiler planned will adhere to all air quality standards and be one if the cleanest of its type in Montana, although it will release more particulate matter and oxides of natural gas than UM’s current boilers that operate on natural gas, The Missoulian reported.

An appeal by UM of its air quality permit also was denied. The university sought to have the permit’s opacity standards lowered to allow denser smokestack emissions.

However, a change in the permit was approved to correct an oversight, after the university argued that it could not meet the stricter opacity standards during startup and shutdown periods scheduled around boiler maintenance, reported The Missoulian.

In making the decision, director Ellen Leahy said she hoped that by focusing on certain activities with specific rules rather than by “loosening a standard,” the ruling “conforms to good regulatory practices.”

After this ruling, the restrictions are lifted on who can appeal the decision to the Missoula City-County Air Pollution Control Board and request an administrative review, said Leahy, The Missoulian reported.

The primary source of this article is The Missoulian, Missoula, Montana, on Sept. 16, 2011.

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