4 The record articles

2020 Look Ahead: Thinking Ahead in an Election Year

Posted: January 23rd, 2020

Authors: Colin M.  Kayla T.  John S.  All4 Staff  Amy M.  Roy R.  Dan D.  Dayna P.  Lindsey K. 
2020 Look Ahead

// Colin McCall

I’m excited to once again introduce our Look Ahead article for 2020 – a year filled with new opportunities for facilities to grow their operations and to position themselves for competitive advantages through environmental planning.  We are now fully settled into the current Trump U.S. EPA administration and have spent the past few years in this article documenting the regulatory reform agenda and efforts of the administration.  While an election year can mean uncertainty in many instances, the issues that we have outlined in this year’s Look Ahead Article (or at least the need to plan for them) won’t generally change based on the outcome of the 2020 election.  While U.S. EPA will almost certainly introduce new areas of focus if the administration changes (small sensor initiatives come to mind), we won’t see the introduction of those priorities until 2021 after a new administration starts.  If the administration remains the same after the election, we have developed a good sense of the regulatory reform and streamlining agenda that would remain in place.  With that said, 2020 is a year to be in action and planning for what lies ahead, including the following highlights:

  1. Planning for major capital projects, including evaluating how recent New Source Review (NSR) reforms might be advantageous and how a potential tightening of the fine particulate (PM5) National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) might be an obstacle to future projects.
  2. Planning for the continuing increase in public scrutiny and access to emissions data that we can expect to rise, regardless of the U.S. EPA administration that is in place. Evaluating current emissions reporting and ensuring consistency in reporting is one way to prepare.  The importance of this concept is evidenced by the current pilot testing in Georgia of U.S. EPA’s future Common Air Emissions Reporting (CAER) tool that will eventually be used nationally to report emissions from a variety of reports and regulatory programs in a single web-based tool.
  3. Planning for the increasing amount of state-specific regulatory programs related to toxics and other emerging contaminants, including perfluoro-alkyl substances (PFAS). ALL4 will continue to track these developments and recommend future steps for planning ahead.

The opportunities to implement projects in a streamlined regulatory climate are still there and we are excited to help our clients with projects in 2020.  In addition to our work with facilities, ALL4 will continue to shape environmental policy and regulations through our work with a variety of industry stakeholder groups.  We are also excited to be adding to our depth of services and experience in multimedia EHS compliance and reporting.  Stay tuned for additional ALL4 updates as we continue to grow in 2020, and of course we will be sharing technical and regulatory updates and what they mean for our clients and industrial facilities throughout the year.  Without further ado, enjoy the look ahead topics!

What’s PFAS Got to Do With It? // Kayla Turney

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) even if you or your facility hasn’t been directly involved in related projects or analyses yet.  PFAS have been all over the news, social media, and now even hitting the big screen!  But in case you haven’t heard, PFAS are a large group of fluorinated compounds commonly used in manufacturing.  Typical materials that contain PFAS are materials with grease-/stain-/water-repellent and non-stick properties, polishes, waxes, paints, and fire-fighting foams.  There are thousands of different PFAS, so as expected, there’s still A LOT we don’t know about them.  However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and other agencies have been conducting human health impact studies and the data has shown evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans.  As such, there is understandable concern and fear growing amongst the public and a push for fast-acting regulation.

What’s ALL4 doing?

Well, reader, I’m glad you asked! Although this is still primarily a water topic, we’re starting to see the quick transition to becoming an air topic.  To make sure we’re prepared and at the forefront of this transition, we’ve created an internal PFAS task force that’s researched, attended public hearings, and partnered with other experts in the stack testing and analytical industries so we can provide the most value to our clients.  We’ve learned a lot over the past several months and I’d like to share some of the main takeaways with you.

Permitting

Although PFAS are new chemicals to the arena, we’re seeing them follow the same general pathway as other regulated air pollutants.  The typical process we’re seeing looks a little something like this:

  1. There’s an area with water quality issues.
  2. Regulators determine that some degree of the water contamination is due to air pollution deposition.
  3. Stack tests/sampling data is requested from local facilities to determine the source of pollution.
  4. A correlation between air and water is demonstrated.
  5. Air regulations are passed.
  6. Affected facilities are subject to testing, modeling, and/or requirements to install PFAS control devices (e.g., construction permitting).
  7. Permits contain emissions limits, operating limits, stack testing requirements, and other obligations to demonstrate ongoing compliance.

This is a story that ALL4 has read before, it just has a new lead character.

Stack Testing and Modeling

State agencies are requesting facilities to conduct stack testing and other samples (e.g., raw materials) to determine if they are contributing to PFAS contamination.  Since this is such a new topic, there aren’t standardized sampling or analytical procedures yet.  And with the vast number of PFAS and difficulty with identification, you can imagine that this is leading to challenges.

Modeling may also be required.  For PFAS, there are two different methods available to run deposition models.  However, the methods require data such as particle distribution, particle density, and particle diameter.  Again, due to the limited amount of published data out there, this can lead to skewed results.  In addition, hydrogen fluoride (HF) modeling may be required as HF is a byproduct of PFAS combustion (i.e., when oxidation is used as a method to control).

Toxic Release Inventory (TRI)

On December 4, 2019, U.S. EPA released a pre-publication of a proposal to add “certain PFAS” to the TRI.  PFAS are unique because they don’t break down naturally over time; they have a very high environmental persistence and bioaccumulation potential, so they are being treated similarly to other regulated Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic (PBT) chemicals [e.g., lead, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs)].  As such, PFAS will likely have a lower reporting threshold like other PBT chemicals.  U.S. EPA is currently evaluating which PFAS will meet the TRI listing criteria, but there is already concern that addressing PFAS in TRI will be a difficult task.  With so many PFAS out there, how many will be added to the inventory?  What is the additional leg work going to look like? How will you get the data to report?  We will definitely be tracking this one closely as it develops.

That’s all for now.  We’re looking forward to seeing what 2020 brings and staying on top of this topic.  If you have any questions, comments, or would just like to chat about PFAS, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Kayla Turney at kturney@all4inc.com.

Going Up: The Complexity of Air Emissions Trading and Costs // John Slade

As in the past, the future will present some new challenges for companies related to their air quality permitting of projects and compliance obligations.  The shortage of Emission Reduction Credits (ERCs) in Nonattainment and Ozone Transport Areas will only get worse, and therefore credits will be more costly.  This is definitely something that needs to be on a company’s early planning schedule for new projects where there will be emission increases of nonattainment pollutants [most commonly nonattainment for the ozone precursors nitrogen oxide (NOX) and volatile organic compound (VOC) and potentially becoming more common particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) depending on the outcome of the awaited update to the PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS)].  Thankfully, some of the state agencies are utilizing an available process that involves the state agency and U.S EPA approval of Inter-precursor Offset Trading to use ERCs from a different precursor pollutant (e.g., NOX ERCs in place of VOC ERCs, or VOC in place of NOX, depending on the emission sources in the area of concern) that is more available, thereby effectively deceasing a shortage of another precursor ERC pollutant.  Because ERCs have been readily available in the past, companies have not typically considered ERCs to be a limiting issue for air permitting in nonattainment areas, but that is now a reality.  If you are planning new projects ALL4 would be glad to discuss some of these alternative permitting methods that involve submission of a demonstration to the state agency and to U.S. EPA for approval.

Another topic that has become an increasing inevitability in the near future involves fees (or some form of emissions allowance program) for emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs).  In the recent past, states like California and a number of states in the Northeast United States [through Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)] have imposed fees on certain industries as a means to encourage the reduction of greenhouse gases.  New Jersey is rejoining RGGI and Pennsylvania has started the process to join RGGI.  All of this increased activity is a result of the U.S. Congress’s inability to address this important air emissions issue at the National level where it would be more effective than the state level.  Instead, expect more states to begin their own individual efforts to reduce GHGs.  Speaking of GHGs…

Climate Change Activities to Watch in 2020 // Megan Uhler

When it comes to GHG emissions, what themes can we expect in 2020?  Further deregulation at the federal level?  Enhanced activity at the state level?  Here’s what we encourage you to pay attention to during the New Year…

Power Sector

If you’re a member of the power sector, understand that litigation challenging U.S. EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule and its repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) persists, despite recent efforts by U.S. EPA to speed up the case and recent efforts by critics of ACE to pause the case.  Critics of ACE were interested in pausing the case until issuance of a final New Source Review (NSR) rule, given that the original ACE proposal provided for NSR reform for the power sector in the form of an hourly emissions increase test.  Appellate judges have denied both requests but whether the court will even issue a ruling before next summer is in question.

While the timing of the court decision on ACE and CPP is uncertain, we do expect to see a draft rule rolling back GHG limits for new coal-fired power plants in the late January/early February 2020 timeframe.  It is speculated that the proposal will eliminate the requirement for new coal plants to install carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

Whereas deregulation proposals exist at the Federal level, various states – including California, New York, Hawaii, New Mexico, Washington, and Colorado – have adopted 100 percent carbon-free targets for their power sectors, through both legislation and executive orders.  The recent activity by states is increasing bipartisan dialogue on Capitol Hill concerning how to still achieve deep GHG cuts across the power sector by 2050.  Most recently, H.R. 5221 was introduced, which pursues a “100 percent clean economy by not later than 2050.”   Outside of government, groups such as the Center for Climate & Energy Solutions (C2ES) are proposing policy roadmaps to achieve deep reductions of EGU GHG by 2050.  We continue to monitor the evolution and status of these proposed measures.

Carbon Neutrality of Biomass

In April 2018, former U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt indicated in a policy statement that sustainably managed forest biomass was carbon neutral.  In their Fall 2019 Unified Agenda, U.S. EPA indicated that they will be proposing an action during March 2020 that “will establish the treatment of biogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the use of certain biomass feedstocks at stationary sources under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V permitting programs.  The proposed action will be based on the Agency’s policy regarding the treatment of biogenic CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA).”  While the title is a bit unclear, it is speculated that the March 2020 action will echo the April 2018 policy statement in that sustainably managed forest biomass is carbon neutral.  A bipartisan group of 18 senators is actively urging U.S. EPA to also cite a range of agricultural feedstocks as being carbon neutral within the proposal.

Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration

Despite the expected early 2020 proposal to no longer require new coal-fired power plants to install CCS technology, it is possible that the Senate’s 2019 bipartisan bill entitled “Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies (USE IT) Act” could get passed by this Congress, due to its inclusion in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  If passed, the USE IT Act would narrowly amend the CAA to direct U.S. EPA to use its existing Section 103 research grants authority for Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration (CCUS) projects and direct air capture.

Carbon Pricing

During 2019 we witnessed over a half-dozen carbon pricing bills get introduced on both sides of government.  The bills vary in terms of the types of programs proposed (cap-and-trade vs. carbon tax vs. a hybrid approach), the stringency of each proposal, and the proposed uses of revenue.   However, the dialogue around this topic currently seems very active on Capitol Hill.

Refrigerants

If passed in 2020, Bill S. 2754, which was introduced during October 2019, would give U.S. EPA the authority to start curbing the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as refrigerants.  The bill calls for a decrease in HFC production over the next 15 years through an allowance and trading program and would give U.S. EPA the ability to establish sector-based use restrictions.  The bill would reverse the deregulation of refrigerants that we’ve seen under the current administration and also implement the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

Landfill Sector

As of the writing of this article, U.S. EPA is required to issue a final federal plan by January 14, 2020 for those states that have not submitted compliance strategies to meet the 2016 methane-based New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and Emissions Guidelines (EGs) for landfills.  U.S. EPA published its proposed federal plan on August 22, 2019 and was issued multiple extensions to its deadline to finalize the plan.  Most recently, U.S. EPA sent a request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to stay the most recent court decision which denied further extension of the January 14, 2020 deadline.  Whether the stay will be granted and the January 14, 2020 deadline extended is currently unknown.

Oil and Gas Sector

In August 2019, U.S. EPA completed its reconsideration of the oil and gas industry’s 2012 and 2016 NSPS, and proposed amendments that would rescind certain parts of the Obama-era requirements for the sector.  In November 2019, House Democrats introduced H.R. 3432 (the “Safer Pipelines Act of 2019”) which would codify the provisions of the NSPS that U.S. EPA is proposing to rescind in the NSPS, while also extending methane standards to new equipment such as gathering lines.  Both the August 2019 proposed rule and the November 2019 bill have yet to be finalized.

ALL4 is tracking these various initiatives and regulatory actions and can help you navigate the impacts of a changing regulatory and policy landscape on your operations, with an eye toward what could be coming in the future.

U.S. EPA Emissions Standards Activities to Track in 2020 // Amy Marshall

The U.S. EPA was hard at work in 2019 revising air quality emissions standards, and there is plenty of activity to come in 2020.  Much of the activity of late has revolved around National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) in 40 CFR Part 63.  In 2019, U.S. EPA completed or initiated the following actions:

  • Proposed revisions to more than 20 NESHAP (also known as Maximum Achievable Control Technology [MACT] rules) as part of its risk and technology review (RTR) activities.
  • Published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) indicating its intent to perform an updated RTR for the ethylene oxide sterilization MACT rule.
  • Proposed revisions to the General Provisions of 40 CFR Part 63 that would remove its longstanding “once in, always in” policy and allow sources of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) to reclassify from major to area sources.

ALL4 staff reviewed many of the RTR proposals and for several of them, we assisted industry associations with developing technical comments for submittal to U.S. EPA in order to try and reduce the burden of the regulatory changes.

There are several common themes across the recent RTR proposals. First, U.S. EPA is removing startup, shutdown, and malfunction (SSM) provisions from MACT rules and either adding language to indicate that the standards apply at all times or incorporating work practices to cover startup and shutdown periods where it is not feasible for sources to comply with the MACT standard that was developed based on normal operation.  Related to this action, U.S. EPA also proposed to remove provisions that many facilities in the chemical industry currently rely upon for safety venting, maintenance activities, and other similar infrequent events.  U.S. EPA has finalized work practice provisions that limit releases from pressure relief devices (PRDs) and safety vents in some RTR rules, but it remains to be seen whether those provisions survive litigation and can be retained in the standards that will be finalized in 2020.  U.S. EPA also proposed safety related shutdown work practices as part of the wood products MACT RTR.  These SSM-related regulatory revisions will force changes in operating methods, monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting (including a requirement to estimate excess emissions due to SSM events).

A requirement being added to each RTR rule is electronic reporting via the Compliance and Emissions Data Reporting Interface (CEDRI).  U.S. EPA is publishing new electronic reporting templates that must be used to upload information required for regular compliance reporting, with requirements to begin using the templates and CEDRI within six months to one year after the rule revisions and reporting template are finalized.  Facilities will likely need to adjust data handling systems and reporting methodologies to accommodate this new approach and may have to submit reports in two different formats if their permitting agency has a state-specific reporting format requirement.

For the RTR rules scheduled to be finalized in 2020, U.S. EPA generally found that risks from the source category being evaluated were acceptable and did not propose many regulatory revisions as a result of its risk reviews.  However, U.S. EPA is addressing elevated risk from ethylene oxide emissions by proposing changes to the miscellaneous organic NESHAP (MON) and gathering additional data to inform an updated RTR for the ethylene oxide sterilization source category.  While the MON revisions should be finalized in 2020, U.S. EPA will be gathering and reviewing information related to emissions and controls for ethylene oxide sterilization facilities in 2020.  U.S. EPA is likely to finalize more stringent requirements for MON emission units in ethylene oxide service to reduce risk from that source category.  Emissions of ethylene oxide also occur from sources covered by the polyether polyols MACT and the hazardous organic NESHAP (HON).  Although these rules have already been through an RTR, the U.S. EPA risk value for ethylene oxide has subsequently become more stringent.  It remains to be seen whether U.S. EPA will initiate a follow up RTR for these rules in 2020.

Several 2019 RTR proposals also included new emission standards or work practices for equipment not previously regulated.  This includes, but is not limited to, more stringent equipment leak definitions, more stringent requirements for flares, lower emissions control thresholds, requirements for repeat performance testing, and additional monitoring and recordkeeping requirements.  However, other proposed changes have included additional options for demonstrating compliance, addition of new test methods or monitoring methods, and clarifications that improve implementation and add flexibility.  Facilities will need to review the final standards carefully to understand new requirements, plan for compliance, and determine how to update current approaches.  The standards with the most potential for significant additional requirements to be finalized in 2020 are the ethylene production, organic liquids distribution (OLD), and MON rules.  ALL4 is also tracking the stationary combustion turbine and site remediation RTRs as two that could have significant changes as well.

ALL4 will watch for many final RTR rules in March and June of 2020 to see which proposed changes are finalized by U.S. EPA.  ALL4 will also track the subsequent litigation that is sure to happen and will work with facilities to plan for compliance with the new requirements.   ALL4 anticipates a decision in the current litigation on the pulp and paper chemical recovery combustion source RTR in 2020 that could send U.S. EPA back to work evaluating standards for additional HAPs and for emission units that currently have no requirements across several source categories.  The result of that litigation could result in more changes to MACT rules to review and evaluate for years to come.  And finally, just when you thought you were done with Boiler MACT, U.S. EPA will propose changes to several emission limits in 2020 that could mean owners of some types of boilers will need to further reduce emissions.  Reach out to Amy Marshall with any questions on emissions standards and for additional thoughts on upcoming rulemakings.

NSR Look Ahead to 2020:  Expect More of the Same // Roy Rakiewicz

The results of 2016 election served as a catalyst for change at U.S. EPA in general, but this change was particularly evident with regard to the applicability and implementation of the new source review (NSR) permitting regulations.  The NSR program includes the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) and the nonattainment new source review (NNSR) regulations.  PSD applies to new major sources and to major modifications at existing major stationary sources for pollutants where the area the source is located is in attainment or unclassifiable with the NAAQS.  NNSR applies to new major sources and to major modifications at existing major stationary sources for a pollutant where the area the source is located is classified as non-attainment with the NAAQS.  Changes at facilities that trigger major NSR requirements must meet stringent permitting requirements such as best available control technology (BACT) and dispersion modeling for the PSD program and lowest achievable emission rate (LAER) and emission offsets for the NNSR program. Such changes are also subject to much longer permitting timelines, public scrutiny, and higher permitting and compliance costs.  The policy and regulatory changes initiated by U.S. EPA have been focused on providing clarity and certainty to several NSR rule provisions that have historically complicated NSR applicability determinations in the regulated community resulting in extended permitting times.

ALL4 has tracked and reported on the policy and regulatory changes associated with the NSR program over the past several years (see our recent article, New Source Review: Proposed Project Emissions Accounting Rule).  While the pace of the changes initiated by U.S. EPA appeared to slow over the past year, several draft policy changes initiated in 2018 became final late in 2019 and a few regulatory actions were proposed, including:

  • Revised Policy on Exclusions from Ambient Air”: The revised guidance   supersedes the historical guidance that relied on the presence of a fence or other physical barrier that excluded air above such areas from the definition of ambient air.   The definition of ambient air is important in the PSD rules when air quality dispersion modeling is required.  Note that U.S. EPA will continue to perform case-specific reviews when requested.
  • Interpreting Adjacent for New Source Review and Title V Source Determinations in All Industries Other Than Oil and Gas”: The final guidance focuses the major source test on physical proximity and removes functional relatedness from the determination.
  • NSR Corrections Rule”: The intent of the proposed rule is to essentially complete an administrative clean-up of the rule and remove of out of date references and vacated rule provisions.
  • Project Emissions Accounting Rule”: The proposed rule would codify a guidance memo issued by U.S. EPA clarifying that emissions decreases can be used in “Step 1” when determining the applicability of major NSR permitting requirements for modifications (also known as project netting). U.S. EPA is currently considering public comments on the draft rule and hopes to finalize it in late 2020.

The U.S. EPA is expected to continue to address NSR-related issues with both guidance and rulemaking in 2020, with the following items currently on their agenda:

  • Reconsideration of Fugitive Emissions Rule: S. EPA intends to conduct a rulemaking to complete its reconsideration of the 2008 Fugitive Emissions Rule, which required that fugitive emissions be included in determining whether a physical or operational change results in a major modification only for sources in certain industries.
  • Hourly Emission Test for the New Source Review Program: U.S. EPA intends to finalize the NSR revisions previously proposed as part of the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule through a separate rulemaking. The rule would make the NSR applicability test for electric generating unit (EGU) modifications based on whether the modification results in an hourly emissions increase, similar to the NSPS modification test.
  • Carbon Neutrality PSD Rule: The proposal is anticipated to address how biomass fuels are addressed when determining PSD applicability to emissions increases of greenhouse gases (GHG).
  • Begin Actual Construction Guidance: The guidance is anticipated to address what can be done in terms of construction before issuance of a construction permit.  The guidance may allow construction of items that are not part of the emissions unit itself, such as foundations or buildings.
  • Plantwide Applicability Limit (PAL) Guidance: The guidance is anticipated to address PAL applicability and implementation concerns that have impeded facilities from using this NSR option.
  • Actual to Projected Actuals Guidance – U.S. EPA is anticipated to issue guidance later in 2020 related to the “actual to projected actuals” NSR applicability test. The guidance is expected to address “could have accommodated” emissions, demand growth, and causation. It is hard to imagine that guidance regarding these topics will not include discussion on what are and are not excludable emissions.

Last but not least, the U.S. EPA is undergoing a process of reviewing historical guidance documents in response to the October 9, 2019 “Executive Order on Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents.”  The intent of the Executive Order is to separate non-binding guidance documents from guidance documents that imply the threat of enforcement action if the regulated community does not comply. U.S. EPA has been prolific with guidance documents related to NSR and other air quality regulations dating back to the early 1980s.  During the review, U.S. EPA will determine which guidance documents to retain and which to rescind based on the executive order.  The review is anticipated to be complete this year.  ALL4 is providing input to industry associations regarding what guidance documents we feel are important to retain and what documents could be rescinded.

The U.S. EPA is poised to continue to clarify and arguably simplify the NSR permitting requirements in 2020.  One final item of note is that 2020 is an election year and at some point, perhaps the third quarter, regulatory revisions and issuance of guidance will slow to a trickle or even stop. Stay tuned to 4 the Record in 2020 to stay informed regarding guidance and revised rulemaking associated with the NSR permitting regulations and reach out to ALL4 staff for assistance strategizing on projects and successfully navigating NSR.

Potential update to PM2.5 NAAQS May Affect Your Next Project // Dan Dix

The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires U.S. EPA to complete a review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) every five years based on the “latest scientific knowledge” to determine if the current NAAQS are still providing adequate public health protection or if a revision to the NAAQS is necessary.  Currently U.S. EPA is completing their five-year review of the particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) NAAQS.  The current annual PM2.5 NAAQS is 12.0 micrograms per cubic meter (mg/m3) and the current 24-hour average PM2.5 NAAQS is 35.0 mg/m3.  U.S. EPA’s September 2019 draft policy assessment suggests that the PM2.5 annual standard should be lowered from 12 mg/m3 to a concentration as low as 8.0 mg/m3 based on key epidemiologic studies (or 9.6 mg/m3 based on the mean of multiple studies) in order to provide adequate public health protection.  Any lowering of the annual PM2.5 NAAQS has the potential to significantly affect your next construction project if the requirement to conduct a PM2.5 modeling demonstration is triggered.  Specifically, if your project results in a PM2.5 emissions increase at or above 10 tons per year (tpy) for existing major sources or 100 tpy for a categorized new facility (250 tpy for non-categorized) under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permitting program, a PM2.5 NAAQS air quality modeling demonstration that the proposed Project will not cause or significantly contribute to an exceedance of the NAAQS is required as part of the air quality pre-construction permitting process.  Some agencies also require a NAAQS modeling demonstration as part of a Title V renewal or with minor NSR permit applications.

The first step in a NAAQS air quality modeling demonstration for a project involves modeling only project-related emissions for comparison to the PM2.5 Significant Impact Level (SIL).  If modeled concentrations from project-related emissions (or facility-wide for new facilities) are above the SILs a facility-wide NAAQS demonstration is required.  Recent updates (circa 2018) lowered the annual PM2.5 SIL from 0.3 mg/m3 to 0.2 mg/m3 making it increasingly difficult to model below the annual PM2.5 SIL.  In addition, recent modeling related amendments (circa 2017) now require inclusion of secondarily formed PM2.5 from sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NOX), and ammonia in the PM2.5 SIL analysis.  A facility-wide NAAQS demonstration requires modeling all emissions units at their potential-to-emit (PTE) emissions rate, inclusion of nearby sources, and inclusion of background concentrations from representative ambient monitoring data.  The inclusion of background ambient monitoring data is where a potential update to the annual PM2.5 NAAQS will make demonstrating compliance with the PM2.5 annual NAAQS through an air quality modeling analysis very difficult, if not impossible.  Current PM2.5 ambient monitoring data across the country averages in the 6 to 8 ug/m3 range, which means that there is only 6 to 4 ug/m3 of “headroom” to model the contribution from your new project or facility.  If the annual PM2.5 NAAQS is reduced, the “headroom” is further reduced.

If the annual NAAQS is dropped below the current monitored concentration in an area it means that area will potentially be re-designated as a nonattainment area and nonattainment new source review (NNSR) permitting would be required instead of PSD permitting which doesn’t required, an air quality modeling demonstration.  However, NNSR brings another set of potential costly issues to deal with including implementation lowest available emissions rate (LAER) technology and purchasing of emissions reduction credits (ERCs) as discuss in another section of this look ahead article.

So, what can I do about this issue, you ask?  ALL4 is already engaged with various trade associations who have been in consultation with U.S. EPA to highlight the impact of lowering the PM2.5 NAAQS on industry.  Even if a lower NAAQS will not result in many more nonattainment areas, it could halt industrial expansion or certain types of projects in many areas due to lack of headroom between the background and the standard.  Various technical associations are also obtaining better emissions data and working to improve test methods.  So, support your trade association and relevant technical associations.  This spring, U.S. EPA will propose a rulemaking to either keep the PM2.5 annual standard the same or lower the PM2.5 NAAQS.  You can participate in the process by providing comments on any proposed rulemaking or providing input to your trade associations as they develop comments.  Following U.S. EPA’s NSR reform activities is also important, as many regulatory proposals or guidance memoranda affect how PSD applicability analyses and PSD modeling are performed for projects.  U.S. EPA has committed to finalizing a PM2.5 NAAQS rulemaking in December 2020.

To prepare for a lower standard, you should:

  • Review your emissions inventory. Have you included all PM5 sources?  Have you included both condensable and filterable emissions?  Do you have any site-specific test data?
  • Run the air dispersion model. Do you have the correct stack parameters? What sources have the most impact on the model results? Where are any assumptions you have made too conservative? Where should you refine the analysis and get better data?
  • Evaluate ways to improve the model results. Get more data to understand variability.  Evaluate modifications to stacks.  Evaluate alternate fuels.  Evaluate improvements to controls.  Evaluate property boundaries. Consider an onsite meteorological tower if airport meteorological data are not representative.  Consider installing a monitor if the background value being used is not representative.

ALL4 can assist you with all of these activities.  Please reach out to Dan Dix for more information!

Not Every Air Measurement Instrument Can Be Treated the Same // Dayna Pelc

Dozens of new low cost (<$1,000) and middle cost ($1,000 – $10,000) sensors are being developed to provide more capability to monitor the air that we breathe. This technology is providing mobile and stationary real-time data collection platforms for fenceline and community monitoring. The lower cost air sensors are providing industries, individuals, communities, and consultants with an opportunity to conduct their own monitoring. But how accurate are these monitors? Significant consideration needs to be given to how the data are collected, where the sensors are placed, and how the monitoring systems are quality-assured (and ultimately how the data will be used).

U.S. EPA reviews, tests, and approves air pollutant monitors for accuracy and reliability for six criteria pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), particulate matter less than 10 and 2.5 microns (PM10 and PM2.5), lead (Pb), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).  After significant testing, the U.S. EPA approves an instrument as a Federal Reference Method (FRM) for monitoring criteria pollutants. These FRMs are the “gold standard” of air pollution monitoring systems and provide, with high confidence, accurate monitoring data. The U.S. EPA also may evaluates sampling instrumentation and approve its use as a Federal Equivalent Method (FEM). The U.S. EPA provides a full list of all approved FRMs and FEMs in accordance with 40 CFR Part 53 in the “List of Designated Reference and Equivalent Methods” (latest issue December 15, 2019). The list is updated to reflect any new designations, modifications of existing designations, or any cancellation of a designation currently in effect.  To determine their accuracy, commercial low and mid-cost sensors should be compared to side-by-side and over a period of months with FRM and FEM instrumentation. U.S. EPA and other are conducting field testing to evaluate sensor characteristics and performance under ambient conditions compared to the “gold standards.”  U.S. EPA is deliberating on how to consider data from small sensors and soliciting stakeholder feedback.

The fundamental objective of air quality monitoring is to collect data that can be used to make informed decisions to best manage operations, comply with requirements, and improve the environment. Although you will need to install FRM equipment if your objective is to use monitoring data for a regulatory analysis, if your goal is to determine if there are opportunities for you to reduce fugitive emissions and minimize product loss, small sensors are an appropriate approach.  Your neighbors and the community may be using small sensors to evaluate how they are being exposed to your emissions past your fenceline (either during normal operations or during an incident), and although these sensors will not provide a definitive answer to whether these emissions are above a standard or a health benchmark, the information could result in negative publicity or prompt an investigation from a regulatory agency.

Small sensors are also being evaluated for use in leak detection programs, as a replacement for sending a person to inspect hundreds of potential leak sites on a monthly basis.  Using a network of small sensors to comply with leak detection requirements could improve performance and reduce cost, as long as the proper sensors are used and they are producing quality data.  Using small sensors in certain applications can also reduce employee exposure and they can allow for a relative understanding of whether events are impacting air quality in certain areas, and be used to help gauge the impact distance (think wildfires).  Small sensors could be used to identify issues before they result in a neighbor complaint about odor, potentially improving a facility’s relationship with its neighbors.

Many factors such as cost and reliability of equipment, cost for ongoing operation and routine maintenance, design and ease of monitoring program, and data objectives must be considered during the development of a monitoring program.  The instrumentation and quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) procedures are fundamental drivers of the questions:

  • Is this data a part of an investigation or research on fugitive emissions?
  • Is this data part of an odor study?
  • Is this data being used to determine the effects of your emissions on the local community?
  • Does this data need to be legally defensible and hold up in court?

With so many sensors commercially available, and so many reasons that you might want to deploy them, figuring out what you need for an ambient monitoring program can be overwhelming. ALL4 is here to assist and get you on track to collecting data that meet your objectives and also to evaluate data collected by someone else.  We have staff that are experts in auditing, calibrating, and planning for your monitoring system needs.  We have an expansive knowledge of the technology available and have the resources you may need when your instruments require recalibration or recertification.  If you have any questions regarding ambient monitoring, please contact Dayna Pelc at 610.422.1169 or dpelc@all4inc.com.

2020 Lookahead – State Programs // Lindsey Kroos

While U.S. EPA develops and oversees federal regulations based on legislation from Congress, Congress ultimately intended state, local, and tribal agencies to implement and enforce those regulations.  So, it’s no surprise that we continue to see activity from state agencies pertaining to federal programs.  More recently, we have also seen state and local agencies responding to U.S. EPA’s focus on de-regulation by taking matters into their own hands.  We expect this trend to continue in 2020, so here are just a few of both the federally-mandated and unique state activities we have our eyes on.

Regional Haze

The Regional Haze Rule was promulgated in 1999 and is intended to protect and improve the visibility in Class I areas (i.e., national parks, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas).  The second implementation period ends in 2028, and the deadline for states to submit their State Implementation Plans (SIPs) for achieving reasonable progress for the second implementation period is July 31, 2021, which means states are working on these plans in 2020.  U.S. EPA makes electronic copies of state SIP submissions available to the public for review and comment.  These plans, once approved by U.S. EPA, could result in additional requirements for facilities that are contributing to visibility impairment.  We are currently working with facilities to respond to states’ requests for analyses of whether additional controls are feasible and necessary to show continued progress in improving visibility in Class I areas.

Reasonably Available Control Technology

Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) is a required component of SIPs for areas that are not attaining the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone, consisting of methods to reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) (i.e., ozone precursor pollutants).  There are two ozone NAAQS currently in effect: the 2008 standard of 0.075 ppm and the 2015 standard of 0.070 ppm.  States are still working to implement RACT for the 2008 ozone NAAQS, and revisions to the implementing regulations for the 2015 ozone NAAQS are also required.  To this end, RACT SIP submittals by the states for moderate nonattainment and Ozone Transport Region (OTR) areas are due to U.S. EPA in August 2020.  As with Regional Haze, these RACT SIP submittals, once approved, could result in lower NOX and/or VOC emissions limits or additional requirements for certain sources.  We are currently working with sources in Pennsylvania, for example, to evaluate the impacts of that state’s latest actions.

SO2 Designations

Back on January 1, 2017, certain areas began monitoring sulfur dioxide (SO2) concentrations in response to the Federal SO2 Data Requirements Rule (DRR).  The purpose of monitoring was to collect three years of data in order to determine the area’s attainment status with respect to the 2010 primary 1-hour SO2 NAAQS and make attainment designations.  Calendar Year 2019 marked the final year of the three-year data collection period, but 2020 consists of various deadlines, including a May 1 deadline for states to certify the 2019 monitoring data and recommend designations, a September 2 deadline for U.S. EPA to notify states of modifications to attainment recommendations, and a December 31 court-ordered deadline for U.S. EPA to promulgate final SO2 area designations.  New nonattainment designations would result in additional requirements in those areas to reduce emissions in order to bring the area into attainment.  We continue to work with facilities on SO2 NAAQS compliance strategies.

Combined Air Emissions Reporting (CAER)

One theme we identified for 2019 was emissions data consistency across various reporting programs.  A good example of this was U.S. EPA identifying discrepancies between data reported for the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) and state air emissions inventories.  Furthermore, many state air emissions inventories are implemented differently, requiring different information in different formats.  U.S. EPA took some steps in 2019 to implement a new program intended to improve data consistency called the Combined Air Emissions Reporting (CAER) program.  This concept originated in 2016, but 2019 saw much more activity, including a pilot program in Georgia.  We expect to see this program continue and expand to other states in 2020 and beyond.  We are working with several facilities to evaluate participation in the Georgia pilot program and are tracking U.S. EPA’s progress as it rolls out components of this program.

Air Toxics

Many federally-mandated state programs pertain to the NAAQS and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).  However, there are states that also have an air toxics program, which may include HAPs, additional non-HAP air toxics, and more stringent requirements than the federal rules.  One recently implemented air toxics program is called Cleaner Air Oregon.  This program was implemented in 2018 and falls into the category of states taking matters into their own hands.  As described on the Cleaner Air Oregon website, the program is intended to “close the regulatory gaps left after the implementation of federal air toxics regulations.”  We are working on a permit application and air toxics modeling analysis for the first new facility to be permitted under this program.  We’ll also be closely watching current and potentially new state air toxics programs in 2020 to evaluate impacts to our clients.

Reach out to your ALL4 project manager if you need help evaluating the impact a state program or initiative might have on your facility or to ask what’s new in your state.

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