In October, the EPA issued the final rule text for an amendment to the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP standards). The amended rule allows major sources of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) to reclassify as “area sources.” Permitting for air emissions requires consideration of not only the amount of emissions currently generated by operations, but also the amount that could be generated. A major source emits or has the potential to emit 10 tons per year or more of a single HAP or 25 tons per year or more of combined HAPs.
Under EPA’s old policy, once a source was a major HAP source under a NESHAP standard and the compliance date for that standard had passed, the source had to remain a major source under that standard even if it decreased its emission, installed pollution control equipment, accepted permit limits, or made other changes to decrease HAP emissions. This policy was known as the “once-in, always-in” policy. This policy was withdrawn in early 2018, and replaced with a guidance memorandum now codified by the final rule.
Two main implications of this rule change to sources affected by the previous once-in, always-in policy are:
- Sources that are no longer major sources of HAPs will no longer be subject to major source NESHAP standards and instead be subject to area source NESHAP standards or in some cases, no NESHAP standards at all. Major source NESHAP standards in most cases require more rigorous monitoring, recordkeeping, reporting, and control requirements than area source standards.
- Under the CAA major sources of HAPs are required to obtain federal “Title V”, also known as “Part 70”, operating permits. Sources that hold Part 70 operating permits solely because they are major sources of HAPs are no longer required to hold this type of permit and may be eligible for less stringent or more streamlined state permitting options (or potentially no permit at all).
This rule can ease the regulatory burden on facilities that seek to limit their emissions below the major source thresholds. Major sources of HAPs whose potential emissions are much greater than their actual emissions are good candidates to take advantage of this change because they may be able to make simple changes and/or accept permit limits to become area sources without impacting the way they normally conduct business. For example, sources that perform coating operations (e.g. spray painting, printing, etc.) often have potential emissions that are much greater than their actual emissions. And with many facilities moving to water-based paints and solvents since the once-in, always-in policy was enacted, many of these types of sources have already decreased their HAP emissions significantly.
This rule change may also encourage major sources of HAPs to evaluate current operations and pursue changes or technological efficiencies that would reduce their HAP emissions.
If you are a major source that is able to take advantage of reclassification under this rule change, be mindful of the compliance dates, notification, and recordkeeping requirements. Because each state’s air permitting rules are different, consult with your state’s permitting authority on what steps you need to take if you are intending to reclassify as an area source. To read the final rule, click here. For more on air permitting options, read our blog, “Permitting for Small Sources of Air Emissions: Know Your Options”.
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