EPA Proposes to Keep Greenhouse Gas Permitting Requirements Focused on Largest Emitters

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing not to change the greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting thresholds for the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V Operating Permit programs. The proposal is part of EPA’s common-sense, phased-in approach to GHG permitting under the Clean Air Act. EPA is also proposing steps that would streamline the permitting process for large emitters already covered by the agency’s program, including sources that account for nearly 70 percent of the total GHG pollution from stationary sources.

EPA’s proposal is consistent with its phased-in approach, announced in 2010, to “tailor” the requirements of the Clean Air Act to ensure that industrial facilities and state governments have the tools they need to minimize GHG emissions and that only the largest emitters need permits.

After consultation with states and evaluating the process, EPA believes that the current approach is working well, and that state permitting authorities are currently managing PSD permitting requests. Therefore, EPA has proposed not to include additional, smaller sources in the permitting program at this time.

EPAs GHG permitting program follows the same Clean Air Act process that states and industry have followed for decades to help ensure that new or modified facilities are meeting requirements to protect air quality and public health from harmful pollutants. As of Dec. 1, 2011, EPA and state permitting authorities have issued 18 PSD permits addressing GHG emissions. These permits have required new facilities, and existing facilities that have chosen to make major modifications, to implement energy efficiency measures to reduce their GHG emissions.

The GHG Tailoring Rule would continue to address a group of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). The PSD permitting program protects air quality and allows economic growth by requiring facilities that trigger PSD to limit GHG emissions in a cost effective way. An operating permit lists all of a facility’s Clean Air Act emissions control requirements and ensures adequate monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting. The operating permit program allows an opportunity for public involvement and to improve compliance.

Under the approach maintained in this proposal, new facilities with GHG emissions of at least 100,000 tons per year (tpy) carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) continue to be required to obtain PSD permits. Existing facilities that emit 100,000 tpy of CO2e and make changes increasing the GHG emissions by at least 75,000 tpy CO2e, must also obtain PSD permits. Facilities that must obtain a PSD permit, to include other regulated pollutants, must also address GHG emission increases of 75,000 tpy or more of CO2e. New and existing sources with GHG emissions above 100,000 tpy CO2e must also obtain operating permits.

EPA will accept comments on this proposal for 45 days after it is published in the Federal Register. A public hearing will be held on March 20, 2012, in Arlington, Virginia to listen to public comment about the proposal.

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