Paint Rule Primer

New emissions rule gives existing auto-body shops breathing room

Auto-body shops and restoration specialists can breathe a sigh of relief now that the final EPA rule on emission standards for paint stripping and surface coating operations is out. At the same time, however, they should take a deep breath and prepare for some changes to come.

While the new rule is not as restrictive as some had previously feared, it does spell out some significant and specific requirements regarding equipment, training, record keeping, monitoring and the emissions themselves. Existing operations have three years to implement the changes, while new businesses have to be in compliance when they start up.

Who It Covers
Area sources are operations that potentially emit less than 10 tons a year of a single hazardous air pollutant (HAP) or 25 tons per year of a combination of HAPs. The rule covers p aint stripping, surface coating of motor vehicles and mobile equipment, and miscellaneous surface-coating operations . This includes operations that refinish autos or coat plastic parts and products.

The goal is to reduce HAPs that affect public health in urban areas by tightening control over some of the smaller emitters. In other words, to regulate the many smaller businesses that, on their own, perhaps do not significantly affect the environment, but when taken together with other smaller businesses do have a significant impact.

The rule does not apply to anyone who refinishes two or fewer vehicles per year, provided they do not receive any compensation.

Federal Register Final Rule Summary
National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants: Paint Stripping and Miscellaneous Surface Coating Operations at Area Sources final rule This action promulgates national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) for area sources engaged in paint stripping, surface coating of motor vehicles and mobile equipment, and miscellaneous surface coating operations. EPA has listed "Paint Stripping," "Plastic Parts and Products (Surface Coating),"' and "Autobody Refinishing Paint Shops"' as area sources of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) that contribute to the risk to public health in urban areas under the Integrated Urban Air Toxics Strategy. This final rule includes emissions standards that reflect the generally available control technology or management practices in each of these area source categories. "Plastic Parts and Products (Surface Coating)" has been renamed "Miscellaneous Surface Coating," and "Autobody Refinishing Paint Shops"' has been renamed "Motor Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Surface Coating" to more accurately reflect the scope of these source categories.

This final rule is effective Jan. 9, 2008. The incorporation by reference of certain publications listed in this rule is approved by the director of the Federal Register as of Jan. 9, 2008.

What It Does
The rule has different requirements for each of the categories of workers it covers. For paint strippers, the focus is on minimizing emissions of methylene chloride (MeCl). Companies and operators are required to have a written plan detailing how they will minimize emissions, protect their workers and store and dispose of materials containing MeCl. The state environmental agency or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must be notified once the plan is developed, and companies must track progress and review the plan annually.

For surface-coating organizations, much of the focus is on technique and equipment. For example, a formal spray booth is required for applying spray coatings, and for vehicle coatings, the booth must be fully enclosed and large enough to accommodate the entire vehicle. The rules also dictate the type of gun used to apply the coating, as well as booth ventilation, filtering and the way spray guns are cleaned. Additionally, painters are required to be trained in techniques that minimize overspray.

Certain newer companies have just 180 days from their start-up date to fully comply with the news regulations. As of the final date of the rule, all new businesses must comply upon start-up. Regardless of whether businesses have been around awhile or are brand new, both must be on record with EPA or the state or local air pollution control agency. They must submit a notification that they’re aware of the rule and are or will be in compliance by the target date. Details on what’s needed in the notification – as well as the specifics on equipment, training and techniques – can be found within the rule:

What Is Next
It’s important to note that accurate record keeping is a must. It will be the shops’ first line of defense and, for EPA, the first line of offense to ensure the rule is being followed.

Shops should expect a fair amount of outreach early on as the government works to let businesses know about the new rule. However, after about a year of this, businesses will find less tolerance for procrastination or violations.

With a three-year timetable for full compliance, existing businesses should use this time wisely and work to phase in implementation. This is a way to spread costs, maximize training schedules, and leverage efficiency standards. This also would be a good time to talk with suppliers about what impact the rule will have on equipment cost, efficiency and availability.

Thanks to industry comment and EPA response, the new rule does a good job of balancing environmental concerns with industry needs and flexibility. Revisions have narrowed the focus, extended the compliance timeline and left many decisions up to businesses in terms of what management practices they institute to comply with regulations. Taken together with earlier rules that limit the amount of solvents in paints and finishes, the latest EPA regulation will further ensure that a great paint job doesn’t leave us gasping for air.

About the Author

William D. Hayes is a partner in the Cincinnati office of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, where his practice focuses on air quality issues. His work on the new rule for national emission standards for paint stripping and miscellaneous surface-coating operations at area sources helped drive a final rule that increases filter options and cost flexibility for those in the industry. To contact him, call (513) 723-4024.