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Environmental Reporting – Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act

In our environmental reporting blog series, we have already discussed how to leverage reporting requirements into better business outcomes and how to prepare for Tier II, TRI, and hazardous waste reports. In this third installment, we will discuss reporting under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and Clean Water Act (CWA) with a focus on air emissions inventory reports and stormwater permit annual reports, and steps to take to efficiently and successfully complete these reports.

Clean Air Act 

Air Emission Inventory Reporting
Regulatory Background

There are several types of reports that may be required under the Clean Air Act (CAA) or by your local air permitting authority; however, in this blog we are focusing on one of the most common reports, the air emission inventory report.

The CAA requires that all states compile an inventory of air emissions each year. This responsibility is carried out by the state or local air permitting authority. State or local jurisdictions may also have their own regulations that require inventorying air emissions.

To fulfill their requirements with the most accurate data possible, state and local regulatory agencies rely on facilities to report the type and quantity of pollutants they emit to the air each year. Because discretion is granted to state and local authorities to collect this data, there are differences across jurisdictions on what is required to be reported, how it is reported, and when the report is due. Therefore, it is important to do your homework ahead of time to know what is required of you and so that you can keep records throughout the year to make reporting as seamless as possible.

Steps to Successful Air Emissions Inventory Reporting

Know If You are Required to Report

Not all facilities are required to report and for facilities that do report, they may not be required to report all their emissions. Commonly, facilities do not need to report emissions from certain “de minimis” activities. For example, in Minnesota, facilities generally do not need to report emissions from a defined group of equipment and processes known as “insignificant activities”. Your state environmental agency’s website is a good place to start to understand if you need to report and what you need to report. If you hold an air emissions permit, you will most likely be required to report.

Know What You are Required to Report

Generally, all air emissions inventory reports will require that you report criteria pollutants (particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and lead). Some jurisdictions require that you also report air toxics and/or greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and other fluorinated gases. Air toxics include the 187 Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) listed in Section 112(b) of the Clean Air Act, plus additional pollutants that have been identified as significant contributors to the contamination of the environment. Your SDSs or EPA’s emission factors can help you determine if you are emitting air toxics.

Know When You are Required to Report

Reporting deadlines vary by state and range from February to July, but most reports are generally due in March or early April. Depending on the state and size of your source you may be able to report less frequently than annually.

Keep Records

In many cases, the records you keep in compliance with your air quality permit, air quality regulations, or other regulatory programs are the same records you can use for your emissions inventory. These files may be usage, purchase, or delivery records. Take advantage of this overlap to minimize duplication of effort. Similarly, the air emissions records you keep can be used in reports for other regulatory programs such as the Toxics Release Inventory.

Calculate Emissions

Most jurisdictions have a hierarchy of preferred methods for calculating emissions for inventories, where the most preferred method available to the facility shall be used. A typical emission calculation hierarchy is:

  • Continuous emission monitors
  • Source (stack) testing
  • Material or mass balance
  • Emission factors
  • Fuel analysis
  • Emission estimation models
  • Engineering judgment

The most common method for calculating emissions is emission factors. An emissions factor is a representative value that relates the quantity of a pollutant released to the atmosphere with an activity associated with the release of that pollutant. These factors are usually expressed as the mass of pollutant divided by a unit weight, volume, distance, or duration of the activity emitting the pollutant (e.g., pounds of particulate emitted per cubic foot of natural gas burned). The records discussed above are used to determine the “activity rate” to multiply your emissions factor by (e.g., records of cubic feet of natural gas burned in the year). Always maintain records of the calculations you do to derive your emissions.

Become Familiar with the Software

Most states require facilities to enter emissions inventory data into online reporting systems. It is a good practice to make sure you understand how to use the database and have access to the database prior to the submittal due date. Many systems require that the regulatory agency grant you access to the database. Depending on the jurisdiction this authorization can take several business days.

Look at Your Data Critically

Before you hit “submit”, make sure the emissions you have calculated make sense. Some agency databases will automatically calculate emissions for certain processes and equipment. If you enter the incorrect units, you may end up with emission rates that are drastically higher or lower than they should be. If the emissions you report are higher than you permit limits, significantly different that previous years, or just don’t seem right, it is important to take another look at your calculations and your data. An air emissions inventory can be the basis for permit revisions, fees, regional modeling, and regulatory decision-making, so it is important to make sure they are as representative of your actual emissions as possible.

Clean Water Act

National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Stormwater Permit Annual Reporting
Regulatory Background

There are several types of reports that may be required under the Clean Water Act (CWA) or by your local water permitting authority. Here we are focusing on a common report that affects most NPDES stormwater permit holders – the annual report.

Although not specifically called out in the requirements listed under 40 CFR Section 122.41(l) covering reporting requirements applicable to NPDES permits, annual reports are required by EPA’s Multi-Sector General Permit as well as by many state stormwater permitting rules and stormwater permits.

Annual reports generally provide the regulatory authority with a summary of the site’s compliance with its stormwater permit and regulations over the past year and highlight any changes to the site or its compliance practices. Like most environmental regulatory programs, the NPDES stormwater permitting program is largely “self-policed” by the permit-holder. Therefore, the annual report provides an important opportunity for the regulated party to demonstrate to its regulator sustained environmental compliance over the course of the year, that the facility is organized and keeping good records, and that when non-compliance or the need for enhanced BMPs was identified, the facility instituted timely and appropriate corrective actions.

Steps to Successful Stormwater Permit Annual Reporting

Know What You are Required to Report

The good news is that generally, annual reports do not require any new information, but rather require a summary of existing information. Of course, the ease of completing this report depends on how well you have been keeping records throughout the year. Your stormwater permit will delineate what information is required in the annual report. Additionally, EPA and many states have reporting forms posted on their websites for your review.

The specific content required in the annual report will vary by jurisdiction, but generally the types of information required by an annual stormwater permit report include:

  • General facility information
  • A summary of the past year’s inspection dates, findings, and any BMP maintenance conducted during the course of the reporting year
  • A confirmation that the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) accurately reflects facility conditions and/or a description of any changes to the facility affecting stormwater discharge or additional potential sources of pollutants and a description of the modifications made to the SWPPP as a result of these facility changes
  • A summary of monitoring results from the past year
  • A summary of any noncompliance in the past year and the corrective actions taken to address non-compliance
  • A certification by a responsible official

Know When You are Required to Report

Reporting deadlines will be contained in your stormwater permit. Reporting deadlines vary by state and may be a set date for all facilities or depend on the date your permit was issued. EPA has authorized most states to administer the NPDES stormwater permitting program, but for jurisdictions covered by EPA’s Multisector General Permit (Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, the District of Columbia, most Indian Country lands, and other designated activities in specific such as oil and gas activities in Texas and Oklahoma), annual reports must be filed by January 30th each year.

Keep Records

The records you keep to comply with your stormwater permit, stormwater regulations, or other regulatory programs are the same records you can use for your annual report. The success of your annual report depends on complying with your permit and keeping appropriate records. Reporting can be made easier by keeping these records organized in a centralized location or easily accessible to staff preparing the report.

Become Familiar with the Software

Many states require facilities to submit annual reports electronically. EPA requires submittal through electronic NPDES eReporting tool. Just like with the air emission inventory report, it is a good practice to make sure you understand how to use the database and have access to the database prior to the submittal due date. Many systems require that the regulatory agency grant you access to the database. Depending on the jurisdiction this authorization can take several business days.

Look at Your Information Critically

Reporting season can often be a scramble, and a summary report may not seem like a value-added endeavor; however, the annual report can be a good opportunity or incentive to review compliance with your stormwater permit holistically as well as evaluate whether you are keeping records in a way that makes annually reporting as seamless as possible.

Other CWA and CAA Reports

Air emission inventory reports and annual stormwater permit reports are one of many reports that may be required of a facility under the CAA or CWA. Under the CAA “Title V” or “Part 70” permit holders are required to submit semiannual compliance or deviation reports, Federal standards such as National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants and New Source Performance Standards all have their own reporting and notification requirements, and EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program requires large emitters of greenhouse gases to report to EPA annually. The CWA requires additional reports including discharge/effluent monitoring reports and reports of unauthorized discharges or releases.

Braun Intertec has experienced consultants that can help you determine what reporting requirements apply to you and help you prepare and submit your reports. Contact us if you have any questions.

Jennifer Wolff, PG, CHMM, CPG Senior Environmental Scientist

P: 952.995.2454

Kelsey Suddard, P.E. Senior Engineer

P: 6514427322