4 The record articles

ALL4’s Texas 2020 Look Ahead

Posted: January 29th, 2020

Authors: Kristin G. 

As we transition from 2019 into the next decade, let’s focus on our crystal ball and see what environmental happenings may be in store for Texans in 2020.  But first, it would be a mistake to not look back at 2019, as what happened in 2019 will influence the environmental direction for Texas in 2020 and beyond.

 

 

2019 – A Foundation

New NSR Tools

Change seemed to be a theme in 2019 with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).  In the first half of 2019, the regulated community saw TCEQ introduce two new permitting tools for New Source Review (NSR) permitting:  the NSR Workbook (now named the PI-1 General Application) and the Electronic Modeling Evaluation Workbook (EMEW).  ALL4 provided complimentary webinars on how to use the new tools and has been working with our clients and TCEQ in implementation.

86th Legislature

The 86th legislative session resulted in the passage of several key air quality bills including expedited permitting and at-risk construction for certain minor NSR amendments as shared in What Happened: Air Quality Bills to Watch in the 86th Texas Legislative Session.  The expedited permitting actions resulted in funding to close out the 2019 fiscal year and opened up funding and hiring to secure the future on the program.  At-risk construction will be discussed below.

TCEQ Air Staff Changes

TCEQ saw many changes in its staffing and structure with the addition of an Air Grants Division with leadership from Michael Wilson, P.E. and many staff changes in the Air Permitting Division.  Notable changes included the promotion of Samuel Short to Director, the creation a second Assistant Director role (Kim Strong and Beryl Thatcher filled these roles), and many of the NSR sections saw new leadership at the manager and team lead role.  Additionally, an Expedited Permitting Team was also developed.

Ozone Nonattainment Area Changes

The Houston-Galveston-Brazoria (HGB) and Dallas-Forth Worth (DFW) areas saw their ozone nonattainment status regress from moderate to serious nonattainment for the 2008 ozone national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS).  More implications associated with ozone nonattainment are discussed below as we look into our 2020 crystal ball.

ALL4 Growth

I’d be remiss not to share that ALL4 Houston celebrated our 5th anniversary and we moved into a larger space to support our planned growth.  Speaking of growth, we’re hiring air quality professionals – with experience ranging from a few years to  seasoned project managers.

Resources

ALL4 provides a variety of resources to the regulated community on all things environmental in Texas at www.all4inc.com/texas. Here are a few articles we wrote and shared in 2019, in addition to those linked above:

2020 – Crystal Ball

As we flip the calendar to 2020 and look into our crystal ball, several key items start to come into focus.

TVOP Implications of the Nonattainment Area Changes

Facilities located in HGB or DFW exhibiting a potential to emit (PTE) of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and/or nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions greater than or equal to 50 tons per year will now be required to operate pursuant to a Title V Operating Permit (TVOP) unless federally enforceable emission limits below the new threshold are taken (and the facility is not otherwise required to obtain a TVOP).  Prior to the nonattainment area classification change from moderate to serious, the threshold was 100 tpy.  Facilities have until September 23, 2020 to apply for a TVOP or federally enforceable emission limits.

NAAQS Updates

On the topic of NAAQS, several are currently under review including fine particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) and ozone.  While the ozone NAAQS isn’t expected to change, the crystal ball is a bit fuzzy on PM2.5A decrease in the existing 12 microgram/dscm annual PM2.5 standard has the potential to impact industry’s ability to expand, including facilities in Texas.  With background PM2.5 concentrations consuming most of the PM2.5 standard in many locations, there is little room for growth.  Facilities may not realize how little room for growth is available until results of an air quality analysis (i.e., air dispersion modeling) are available.  Stay tuned throughout 2020 as the PM2.5 standard is proposed.

At-Risk Permitting

Commencement of construction was addressed in Senate Bill 1501 (SB1501).  Specifically, SB1501 addresses commencement of construction of a project following the issuance of a draft permit for an amendment to an NSR air quality permit (i.e., before issuance of a final permit to construct).   The bill became a law and was effective on January 1, 2020.  TCEQ is currently working on a related rulemaking.  Stay tuned for proposed rule language in 2020.

Operating and Expanding in Houston

With the change of ozone nonattainment status from moderate to serious in the HGB area, there are several implications that HGB based companies should be aware of and plan for.  Earlier you read about the TVOP implications.  Arguably more important, companies in the HGB area that are expanding or modifying operations should be aware of the lower Major Source and Significant Level thresholds that can result in more projects being categorized as a major NSR project instead of a minor NSR project.  The lower significant emissions increase levels coupled with the TCEQ “de minimis threshold test” (netting) requirements for areas classified as serious nonattainment and the increase in offset ratios needed for these major source/major modification projects will influence both permit timing and requirements thereby making air permitting projects in the HGB area a significant challenge!  Essentially more projects will be major or major modifications, companies will need to apply lowest achievable emission rate (LAER) technology and offset a higher level of emissions while facing a serious supply/demand issue with available emission credits in the region (i.e., premium cost, provided credits are available).

Project planning at your facility has never been more important!  Companies should understand their long-term growth plans and also understand where available internal emissions reductions could be made.  For example, companies should also consider voluntary projects to bank real emissions reductions that could help to internally offset an expansion project.  Companies in the HGB area are facing a new norm in NSR air quality permitting.  Careful planning and being proactive will payoff for some, while others may find themselves potentially unable to permit the project.

Routine Compliance Requirements

As a new year begins, don’t forget your routine compliance obligations.  Several of the main obligations are summarized below:

Compliance Obligation/Report

Deadline

Highly Reactive Volatile Organic Compound (HRVOC) Emissions Cap and Trade (HECT)/Mass Emissions Cap and Trade (MECT)
Current or Vintage Year Trades
January 30
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) Tier II March 1
Annual Emissions Inventory (AEI) March 31
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Part 98 Reporting March 31
HECT/MECT Annual Compliance Reports March 31
EPCRA Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) July 1
Texas Pollution Prevention (P2) – Annual Progress Report (APR) July 1
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) September 30
Texas Pollution Prevention (P2) – Executive Summary (and 5-year P2 Plan renewal, as applicable) January 1 (date may vary depending on when first Annual Waste Summary or TRI was filed)
Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) /New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) Compliance Reports Various – see rule and/or air permit
Title V Semiannual Deviations Reports and Annual Compliance Cert Various – see rule and/or air permit

We wish you a successful and compliant 2020! A big thank you to our clients who have helped spur our growth in Houston and in Texas.  It’s been our pleasure to help solve your environmental challenges over the past five years and we look forward to growing with you for many years to come.  If you have questions on any of the topics above and/or know of talented environmental professionals looking for a growth oriented company to build a career at, please reach out to me (kgordon@all4inc.com or 281.201.1241).

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