Ten years after the Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) of 1990, as U.S. industry enters the 21st century, it faces compliance deadlines for new programs recently implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as several programs under development. These programs encompass more than 300 new air pollutants and hazardous substances.

Increased agency and public scrutiny will accompany these programs as a large body of publicly available information emerges. This will require industrial facilities' environmental managers to exercise increased diligence in observing requirements, in order to avoid costly civil and criminal penalties. This will also require creative, yet credible techniques to comply with increased monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements in order to minimize bottom-line costs.

Risk management programs under Section 112 (r)
Under this rule, by June 20, 1999, affected facilities must have submitted detailed, publicly available plans for preventing and responding to accidental releases of hazardous substances. Risk management plans (RMPs) must describe the types of accidental releases that have occurred or could occur, and distances within which serious injury to the public could occur.

The remaining step in the RMP process is the submission of the RMPs to regulating authorities, and giving the public access to information contained in the RMPs. EPA has created an electronic submission option called RMP*SubmitTM and an Internet-based public access system called RMP*InfoTM.

RMP*Submit is available via the Internet (see Tracking CAAA regulatory developments on the Web). RMP*Info will be used by EPA for public access to information extracted from RMP*Submit. There is no agency review and approval process for RMPs, other than complete and timely plan submission. Since the ultimate reviewer will be the public, the past and future effectiveness of public relations will determine the impact of the program on industry.

The MACT trap
EPA has yet to issue maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards for about 100 source categories of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). However, HAP sources could still be caught in the "MACT trap" long before their MACT standard is promulgated. Under a new EPA rule, facilities that install new major HAP emission units prior to their MACT standard being promulgated must receive a permit prior to construction, requiring installation of "case-by-case" MACT. The entire approval process could take up to 18 months. Since many MACT standards may not be promulgated for several years, many facilities could trigger this requirement. It can also apply to HAP sources that are not yet listed for MACT standards.

CAM, CE and PM
Compliance assurance monitoring (CAM), credible evidence (CE) and Title V periodic monitoring (PM) are the most complex, overlapping rules under the CAAA. These regulations pose the greatest potential costs to industry in terms of monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting, and enforcement liabilities. The CE rule greatly broadens the scope of information EPA can use to determine violations, well beyond explicit emissions tests, to "any credible evidence." This extends to operational data that can be correlated with compliance. The CAM and PM rules determine the type of data - i.e., evidence - to be recorded, as well as the frequency of monitoring and recording such data. The CAM rule will apply to most major sources only upon Title V permit renewal, which is several years away.

In the meantime, however, all initial Title V permits must incorporate PM. This will be the most confusing and controversial aspect of the draft Title V permit review process. EPA issued PM guidance in September 1998. The guidance is very broad in terms of the types and frequency of monitoring. The sources most affected by this rule are those for which monitoring methods and/or frequency are not already clearly specified by an applicable requirement. This is the case for older sources. The challenge for such sources is to craft plans that utilize available operational data that can be correlated with compliance - i.e., compliance "indicators" - rather than implement costly emissions monitoring programs.

However, the potential for agencies to use this information for enforcement under CE encourages the establishment of the fewest acceptable compliance indicator parameters, at levels safely below those that correlate with an emission limitation, yet not so low as to hinder operational flexibility.

NOx cap-and-trade program
To address the effect of interstate transport of ozone precursors, in October 1998, EPA promulgated a rule, known as the NOx SIP call, requiring 22 states (see NOx cap and trade states) and the District of Columbia to reduce state-wide "ozone season" (May to August) nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and then cap them permanently in 2007. Caps on existing sources must be issued via state implementation plans (SIPs) by May 1, 2003. After that date, new or expanding sources will have to obtain emission "allowances" from either a set-aside pool or other existing sources. Fossil-fueled power plants and other large fossil-fueled combustion sources, such as boilers or combustion turbines, will be the primary sources affected.

Revisions to the NAAQS for particulate matter
In July 1997, EPA toughened the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter, along with ozone. Although the new standards were nullified by a federal appeals court in May, at press time EPA had filed an appeal. If EPA loses the appeal, the agency will soon be back with a new stronger proposal for the standards, backed by more recent scientific data. The PM standards may well be tightened further. The revised standards, aimed at very fine particulate matter having an aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less (PM2.5), will draw increased attention to PM2.5 precursors such as NOx and sulfur dioxide (SO2), as well as interstate transport. Since the technical tools and inherent data needs associated with implementing and enforcing the revised PM standards have yet to be developed, implementation of related regulatory programs will stretch into 2015.

Title V permit revisions
EPA has struggled for four years to revise the rules addressing Title V permit revisions. The fifth draft of EPA's proposal was issued in March 1998, absent the most controversial provisions, those related to modifications. Of major concern is the prospect of lengthy reviews for quickly needed, economically driven modifications. EPA's thinking has encompassed as many as four possible review "tracks," each with its own minimum schedule ranging from very short time frames such as "notice and proceed," to very long periods encompassing full new source review (NSR). The final approach may not be settled before 2000.

New source review reform
In July 1996, EPA proposed sweeping changes to the NSR rules, aimed at reducing the burden on new and modified facilities. After considerable public comment, in July 1998 EPA published a notice of changes being considered to the 1996 proposal. The final rule was scheduled for this May. As of publication of this article, however, it is unlikely that this date will be met.

The reform proposal includes several new mechanisms for avoiding NSR. These include:

  • "Clean unit/clean facility" exclusions;
  • More flexible (10-year) definition of "baseline" emissions;
  • Plant-wide applicability limits (PALs);
  • Pollution control and prevention exclusions; and
  • More realistic emissions "netting" calculation procedures.

Reforms to application review procedures focus on reducing excessive subjectivity, uncertainty and delays related to such areas as:

  • Federal land managers' role in review and approval of sources impacting federal Class I areas;
  • Universe of "available" control technologies and cutoff dates for best available control technology (BACT) and lowest achievable emission rate (LAER) determinations;
  • Pre-construction air quality monitoring requirements; and
  • "Pre-permit" construction activities.

Residual risk standards
Residual risk is the risk to people and ecosystems from HAP emissions that remain after implementing MACT standards. The CAAA requires EPA to promulgate residual risk standards for each category of industry-specific MACT standards within eight years after a MACT standard is promulgated. The timetable is from 2002 to 2008, and possibly beyond.

In April 1998, EPA released its draft plan for implementation. The final plan, expected this year, will follow a progressive three-tiered approach:

(1) Conservative screening for generic "worst-case" sources across a specific category;
(2) Screening of individual sources within the category; and
(3) Screening of site-specific factors such as exposed populations and ecosystems.

Third-tier sources will need to perform refined site-specific health and ecological risk assessments following EPA guidance. The analyses must consider the integral effect of multiple pollutants, media and exposure pathways.

EPA is testing a model for this purpose, called the total risk integrated model (TRIM). Ultimately, compliance may require additional controls or process changes.

Other developments to watch for
Other developing regulations to watch for include:

  • MACT standards for smaller HAP sources located in urban areas, scheduled between 2001 and 2005;
  • Regional haze rules, proposed in 1997, targeting sources adversely affecting visibility in national parks and wilderness areas at press time were expected to be finalized this May; and
  • A short-term SO2 intervention level program aimed at large point sources causing high peak (five-minute) concentrations, due by December 2000.

One other notable development may be associated with international efforts to combat global warming. It remains to be seen whether or not Congress will authorize EPA to implement related rules under the CAAA.

Tracking CAAA regulatory developments on the Web

EPA rules, policies and guidance documents

Risk Management Plan guidance


The "MACT trap" rule

Title V periodic monitoring guidance

Guidance on the CAM rule

NOx SIP call

PM2.5 implementation

Title V revisions draft proposal

New source review reform

Residual risk standards

Urban air toxics strategy

Regional haze rule

Short-term SO2 intervention level program

NOx cap-and-trade states

District of Columbia
North Carolina
New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island
South Carolina
West Virginia

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/1999 issue of Environmental Protection.

comments powered by Disqus