4 The record articles

Caught in the Crossfire

Posted: January 9th, 2012

Authors: John E.  Kristin G.  Ron H.  Neal L.  Colin M.  Roy R.  John S.  Eric S.  Susie B. 

Eerily similar to the political and ideological extremism that has overtaken both houses of Congress, the various factions that typically provide “public” comments on proposed new and revised air quality regulations are generally split between industry trade or lobbying organizations and environmentally themed non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  While both sides have good intentions and are working on behalf of their “clients,” it is often difficult to see through the rhetoric that frequently accompanies public comments.  Industry groups present dire predictions of blackouts and the collapse of the U.S. economy, while the environmentally-themed NGOs present equally dire predictions of famine, drought, floods, disease, and even death.  During 2011, we saw an endless array of air quality regulatory proposals, public comments, responses to public comments, remands, reconsiderations, vacaturs, and related legal wrangling – the endless battle of “good vs. evil” mindset that has infected the regulatory development process.  Lost in this legal maelstrom are the entities that are caught in the crossfire – the regulated facilities that are forced to plan for facility growth (hopefully) while maintaining compliance with air quality requirements in an environment of extreme uncertainty – from both an economic and regulatory perspective.  While we (ALL4) can’t change the system, we can offer up some guidance regarding what to look for from an air quality planning perspective during 2012.  We asked 14 of our air quality professionals to identify one important unique air quality issue and to prepare a “brief” synopsis for inclusion in our December 2011 issue of 4 The Record.  The results are presented below.

Unconventional Gas Development and Air Quality

In earlier issues of 4 The Record during 2011, ALL4’s Marcellus Gas team provided a general air quality overview surrounding Marcellus Shale drilling operations, transport and storage operations, greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting, proposed NSPS/NESHAP revisions, and Pennsylvania’s air emission inventory directive.  Up until 2011, Marcellus Shale environmental concerns centered on water use and management surrounding the hydraulic fracking process.  While those issues remain prominent, the regulatory and compliance focus on air quality issues related to the collection, treatment, and transportation of the Marcellus Gas to market is beginning to intensify.  As the Marcellus Gas market matures, the midstream infrastructure is taking shape.  This includes well laterals, compressing and dehydrating stations, and midstream gathering lines.  The prominent air quality issue developing is single source aggregation for determining major source pollutant thresholds for Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Nonattainment New Source Review (NNSR).  On October 12, 2011 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) issued their Draft Guidance for Performing Single Stationary Source Determinations for Oil and Gas Industries.  The most significant development in the draft guidance document is the application of the “quarter mile or less” “bright line” for determining if sources are on contiguous properties.  Facilities must use caution when using this approach, as the guidance states that facilities that are located within a quarter mile will be considered contiguous or adjacent and properties located outside a quarter mile “may be considered contiguous or adjacent on a case-by-case basis.”  Within the past few weeks, U.S. EPA Region III has issued objections to PADEP’s guidance document, stating that PADEP’s guidance “appears to alter the conventional way in which aggregation determinations have been made federally and by PADEP.”  2012 is sure to include interesting developments on this issue.  Please contact us should you have any questions about air quality issues facing unconventional gas developers in general and single source aggregation issues facing the industry in particular.

EPA Region III has issued objections to PADEP’s guidance document, stating that PADEP’s guidance “appears to alter the conventional way in which aggregation determinations have been made federally and by PADEP.”  2012 is sure to include interesting developments on this issue.  Please contact us should you have any questions about single source aggregation issues facing the industry or air quality issues facing unconventional gas developers in general.

 GHG Reporting Rule

Who’s ready for the next round of greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting?  The GHG Reporting Rule, 40 CFR Part 98 – Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases, was first issued by U.S. EPA in 2009.  Data and recordkeeping requirements began January 1, 2010.  For most facilities, the GHG emissions report for 2010 emissions was due by September 30, 2011, after U.S. EPA delayed submittal from its original deadline of March 31, 2011.  However, the submittal for 2011 emissions is fast-approaching with an upcoming deadline of March 31, 2012.  With the e-GGRT system in place, it is unlikely that facilities will receive the same reprieve as this past year.  U.S. EPA has made numerous amendments to the GHG Reporting Rule since its first issuance.  For example, industrial wastewater treatment plants and landfills are now covered by the rule.  The original GHG monitoring plans and calculation tools probably didn’t cover these areas.  Looking ahead into 2012, facilities need to re-evaluate the applicability of the GHG Reporting Rule and ensure that they are in compliance with the original rule as well as all of the amendments.  Even if a facility was not originally subject to the rule, a facility could now be subject under the amendments.  Please contact ALL4’s Susie Bowden at sbowden@all4inc.com with any questions related to GHG reporting requirements.

Short Term National Ambient Air Quality Standards (with a focus on SO2)

2011 was the year that many facilities were introduced to the prospect of air quality modeling because of the new 1-hour sulfur dioxide (SO2) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).  U.S. EPA’s new NAAQS will continue to be at the forefront of strategic facility planning in 2012 and beyond.  This past year figured to be a busy year related to NAAQS compliance, specifically the 1-hour sulfur dioxide (SO2) NAAQS that U.S. EPA is proposing to implement in part through air dispersion modeling of specific industrial facilities.  The dispersion modeling requirement for the SO2 NAAQS will be far reaching and impactful across industry because it will mandate dispersion modeling (and tighter emission limits and control strategies) without a permitting “trigger.” Where previously facilities would have had to trip significance thresholds under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program to require air quality modeling, now any facility that has the potential to emit 100 tons per year (TPY) of SO2 could be required to conduct modeling for State Implementation Plan (SIP) maintenance plans that are due in June 2013.   While a select few states have been conducting dispersion modeling for the SO2 NAAQS implementation process, 2011 ended up being more of a setup year for the work that lies ahead:

  • In March and April of 2011, U.S. EPA released guidance for a new version AERMOD designed to accommodate the forms of the new 1-hour NAAQS levels, and guidance related to the key components of how Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit modeling should be conducted for the new NAAQS levels.
  • On September 22, 2011, U.S. EPA released the long anticipated draft guidance to states outlining how states should go about conducting dispersion modeling for the 1-hour SO2 NAAQS implementation process (our 2011 “look-ahead” article released this time last year referenced the then-anticipated release date of January 2011).  Many states and industrial facilities commented strongly on the practicality and legality of the draft modeling guidance (public comment closed on December 2, 2011).

In the year ahead, the SO2 NAAQS implementation modeling guidance will be finalized and the June 2013 deadline for states to submit their State Implementation Plans (SIPs) that include the SO2 dispersion modeling will be fast approaching.  This means that major facilities (and some smaller facilities) that have not already seen requests for modeling information from states will begin to see formal requests, and strategic and capital decisions will need to be made pending the modeling results.  The best advice we can give is to plan ahead and plan now, understand how the modeling results will look for your facility, and be involved with your states so that any new limits that are imposed as part of this process are reasonable and achievable in the years ahead.  Legal challenges to the SO2 modeling process will continue and will need to be monitored.  PSD permit modeling will continue for individual major projects, and as we have already seen, the 1-hour NAAQS modeling requirement should be considered as early as possible in the planning process for any new project.  Please contact ALL4’s Colin McCall at 678.460.0324 x206 or cmccall@all4inc.com with any questions related to NAAQS requirements. Please contact ALL4’s Dan Dix at 610.933.5246 x118 or ddix@all4inc.com with any questions related to air quality modeling.

Not So “New” Source Review

New Source Review (NSR) as manifested through the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Nonattainment New Source Review (NNSR) programs will continue to be a perennial challenge for major facilities embarking on growth projects.  U.S. EPA almost universally identifies NSR in the same breath when discussing national enforcement initiatives and “large industrial facilities” (e.g., utilities, cement manufacturers, etc.).  However, the breadth of the NSR regulations is felt well beyond “large industrial facilities.” The specter of NSR could even find its way into facilities and business sectors (e.g., unconventional gas development) that have been historically “immune” from NSR (see the Aggregation entry herein).  While the requirements of best available control technology (BACT) under PSD and lowest achievable emission rate (LAER) under NNSR have historically provided the primary fear factor of NSR, a few new twists have emerged:

  • Short term National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for both sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).  The short term standards are so stringent, and the “background” ambient pollutant concentrations at many locations are so high, that legitimate projects, even environmentally beneficial projects, could be significantly delayed or even cancelled (see the Short Term NAAQS entry herein).
  • The “Tailoring” rule now requires facilities to evaluate the applicability of PSD to increases in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions via a complex multi-step process (see the Tailoring Rule entry herein).  The Tailoring rule could result in a previous “minor” source triggering PSD for a criteria pollutant as part of a project involving a significant GHG emission increase.
  • NNSR permitting in PM2.5 nonattainment areas has resulted in a realization that PM2.5 emission offsets are generally not available in sufficient quantities to support growth projects. While many states will allow the use of PM2.5 precursors (i.e., nitrogen oxides (NOX) and SO2) to offset PM2.5 emission increases, the reductions must be obtained from sources that impact the PM2.5 nonattainment area and must be procured at applicable interpollutant trading ratios, which are currently undefined as a result of a July 21, 2011 policy memo from U.S. EPA.

In summary, project planning and strategy related to air quality will be extremely important in 2012 and beyond.  Please contact ALL4’s Roy Rakiewicz at 610.933.5246 x127 or rrakiewicz@all4inc.com with any questions related to NSR.

Aggregation or Aggravation?

There have been a number of air quality permit appeals recently and a new guidance document from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) that outlines how single source determinations should be made on air quality permits for the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania.  However, today’s economic challenges have also greatly increased the sale of entire facilities, the sale of portions of operations, and the consolidation of operations.  Each of these activities can also raise the question of what is a single source.  We envision that regulatory agencies will take a renewed interest in aggregation based on the level of development that is occurring in the oil and gas sector.

The aggregation question is not a new issue and it could impact any type of manufacturing entity, not just oil and gas operations.  The use of this term has its roots in the Federal Clean Air Act (CAA) where Congress wanted to make a distinction between large facilities that should be subject to very restrictive major New Source Review (NSR) permitting versus minor air emission source permitting.  The criterion for NSR permitting utilizes the potential emissions of a facility, where larger emitting facilities are typically subject to more rigorous permit review.   If emissions from related facilities that are located close to each other are “aggregated,” the total potential emissions could trigger the major NSR permitting requirements. But how exactly does one decide what should be considered a single source under NSR permitting? That can be much more complicated than is immediately apparent.

When making single source determinations under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) rules, U.S. EPA has determined that the facilities must meet all of the following to be considered a single source:

  • The activities belong to the same industrial grouping (same 2 digit SIC code);
  • The activities are located on one or more contiguous or adjacent properties; and
  • The activities are under the control of the same person (or persons under common control).

This seems simple enough, but such determinations are rarely straightforward.  More recently, the “interdependency” of facilities and the “common sense notion of a plant” are terms that have appeared in aggregation determinations, thereby complicating the process and providing some minor surprises. The concept of determining “common control” has also evolved to include the evaluation of specific contract language between apparent independent facilities and support operations. U.S. EPA has maintained their stance that aggregation determinations are made on a case-by-case basis, taking the facts of each situation into account.  We believe that the case-by-case approach will continue to be used by regulators regardless of attempts by state regulatory agencies to simplify the process and to provide a little certainty. For a company trying to obtain what would seem to be a minor source permit, all of this can be quite confusing and most importantly can result in critical time delays.  For these situations, development of a permitting strategy and submission of a permit application that includes strong arguments against being considered a single source will be crucial to obtaining a construction permit in a timely manner.  Please contact ALL4’s John Slade at 717.822.0009 or jslade@all4inc.com with any questions about aggregation.

Tailoring Rule?  What Tailoring Rule?

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Tailoring Rule has been in place for over a year and a half now, and many environmental air quality professionals might still be hard pressed to describe how it impacts a new project at an existing facility that emits regulated New Source Review (NSR) pollutants.  Part of the confusion in trying to determine whether a project might trigger the applicability of the major NSR Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) rules for projects that emit GHGs arises around the basic concepts of “major source” and “significant emissions increase.”  For determining rule applicability, both of these terms rely on the emission rates of regulated NSR pollutants emitted by a facility.  Under PSD, the major source thresholds are either 100 tons per year (TPY) or 250 TPY depending on the source category, and the significant emissions increase thresholds for modifications are even lower ranging rule applicability, both of these terms rely on the emission rates of regulated NSR pollutants emitted by a facility.  Under PSD, the major source thresholds are either 100 tons per year (TPY) or 250 TPY depending on the source category, and the significant emissions increase thresholds for modifications are even lower ranging anywhere from 0 TPY to 100 TPY.  Since these thresholds would be extremely low levels of GHG from most typical GHG sources, U.S. EPA introduced a new term into the PSD regulations to help minimize the number of projects that might otherwise be subject to the rule as a result of increased levels of GHG resulting from a project.  The new term is “Subject to Regulation” and it includes significantly higher thresholds for GHG emissions that are used to determine PSD applicability for a project that emits these pollutants.

As of July 1, 2011, GHGs can only be “Subject to Regulation” if the existing major source already emits, or has the potential to emit, 100,000 TPY of CO2e, and the new project will result in an emissions increase of 75,000 TPY or more of CO2e.  It is important to understand that the way the rule is written, an existing source can only be a major source of GHG pollutants if it is “Subject to Regulation” as defined in the rule and it can only be a major source when it is undertaking a modification that results in at least a 75,000 TPY increase in CO2e.  Once the source is “Subject to Regulation,” the significant emissions increase threshold for any of the six GHG component gases is 0 TPY.  In other words, once the GHGs are “Subject to Regulation,” any increase triggers PSD for the GHG emitted by the project.  In summary, project planning and strategy related to air quality will need to include an understanding of how the Tailoring Rule can impact expansion projects in 2012 and beyond.  Please contact ALL4’s John Egan at 610.933.5246 x114 or jegan@all4inc.com with any questions related to GHG and NSR.

Area Sources – Under the Radar No Longer

Are you the operations, facilities, or real-estate manager of a small industrial facility, nonindustrial facility, data-processing center, school district, hospital, or generic office building?  Are you not quite certain about why you receive 4 The Record (4TR) or 4TR Extra!?  Did you read the title and first couple of sentences of this paragraph and not understand their meaning or what they refer to?  Or do you have an air-quality operating permit that collects dust in a filing cabinet somewhere and only sees the light of day a couple of times a year?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are that you’re facility is an “Area Source.”  Area Sources are smaller, industrial or nonindustrial facilities that have a potential to emit (PTE) hazardous air pollutants (HAP) (think lead (Pb) or mercury (Hg)) at levels below 10 tons per year of a single HAP and/or below 25 tons per year of a combination of HAP that have, until recently, been the happy recipients of less air-quality related regulatory scrutiny than their larger “Major Source” facility counterparts.  The realm of air-quality regulation has witnessed an increase in the effort and scrutiny dedicated to Area Sources from U.S. EPA and state agencies alike in recent years, and all indications point to a continuation of U.S. EPA’s recent regulatory interest in Area Sources for 2012.  With the compliance date of the Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engine Maximum Achievable Control Technology (RICE MACT) rule fast approaching, and the re-promulgation of the Area Source Boiler MACT, both industry specific and nonindustrial facilities alike will be impacted to a larger degree by Area Source specific regulations in 2012.  Taking a look at those air quality regulations that potentially affect your operations early in 2012 could be the difference between you being a regulatory hero at your facility, or getting caught with your compliance pants down, so to speak.  Please contact ALL4’s Ron Harding at 610.933.5246 x119 or rharding@all4inc.com should you have any questions about the RICE MACT or Area Source regulations in general.

What Path for Climate Change Action?

Over the past two years we have seen the climate change legislation debate in Washington D.C. shift focus away from capping greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under a regulatory scheme to promoting the development of clean and efficient energy technology, with little real action.  Meanwhile, U.S. EPA is pushing forward with rulemakings that would begin to limit GHG emissions from only the largest sources (fossil fuel-fired power plants and refineries), but these efforts are lagging behind their original schedule and already face fierce opposition.  Now the International Energy Agency has issued its 2011 World Energy Outlook report (www.worldenergyoutlook.org/) which warns that without far-reaching energy policy actions within the next five years to truly curb GHG emissions, the world will be locked into large temperature increases and the associated consequences.  So what does all this mean for us here in the U.S.?  A Harvard team of researchers (www.belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/) thinks the answer is for the U.S. to take both paths, by increasing funding for energy research and development and at the same time establishing policies that create a substantial price on carbon emissions through either a cap-and-trade system or a tax on GHG emissions.  In the coming election year, realistic expectations for definitive action to take the U.S. down these paths are understandably low.  But stay tuned here for developments, since the brunt of whatever happens will be borne by the regulated community.  Please contact ALL4’s Neal Lebo at 610.933.5246 x113 or nlebo@all4inc.com with any questions related to climate change.

A Return of Alternate Fuels in 2012?

U.S. EPA finally released some good news for facilities that incorporate alternate fuels in their boilers.  The good news is around proposed revisions to the non-hazardous secondary materials (NHSM) definition contained in 40 CFR Part 241 which regulates solid wastes used as fuels in combustion units.  Specifically, four primary revisions to the proposed rule are identified:

  • Revisions to three definitions.
  • Changes to procedures for comparing contaminant levels in NHSM to contaminant levels in other fuels combusted.
  • Determinations for pre-approved NHSM.
  • A proposed approach to augmenting the list of acceptable NHSM.

Although the news is good, the process of using certain alternate fuels can still be confusing to facilities and it is important to understand how this NHSM proposed rule links to the proposed Definition of Solid Waste under 40 CFR Part 261.  In most instances a facility will want to be regulated under the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutant (NESHAP) requirements for industrial boilers rather than the Standards of Performance for New Stationary Sources (NSPS) or Emission Guidelines for Commercial/Industrial Solid Waste Incineration (CISWI) units.  Therefore, if you are firing alternate fuels you will want to understand the applicability process for these regulatory “options” for your operations.  Please contact ALL4’s Ron Harding at 610.933.5246 x119 or rharding@all4inc.com or Dan Holland at 610.933.5246 x115. Cycle4ward is ALL4’s sister company for waste repurposing and alternate fuel strategy.

Regulatory Tracking:  More Personal Support Needed!

If you’re one of the hundreds of environmental managers who subscribe to 4 The Record, I’ve probably called you.  Sure, I wanted to tell you about EnviroReview, our environmental regulatory update service.  But, before I could do that, I set out to truly understand your environmental needs. The information was tough to gather, because these days, the pressure is on, and no one has time to talk.  This year, environmental managers had a lot on their plate, juggling responsibilities and keeping up with all those darn regulations.  As I asked the questions, “How are you keeping track of regulatory activity?” and “How do you know you aren’t missing anything?” I received the same responses, over and over again.  “I already get a report for that, I don’t have time to read another one.”  If we talked for more than five minutes, I understood a little more about what your needs were and explained that EnviroReview is certainly not another computer-generated report overloading you with daily “updates.”  However, given the current pace of regulatory developments, revisions, proposals, and remands at the Federal, state, and even local level, regulatory tracking can occupy a substantial piece of an environmental manager’s already constrained schedule.

Responsibilities and keeping up with all those darn regulations.  As I asked the questions, “How are you keeping track of regulatory activity?” and “How do you know you aren’t missing anything?” I received the same responses, over and over again.  “I already get a report for that, I don’t have time to read another one.”  If we talked for more than five minutes, I understood a little more about what your needs were and explained that EnviroReview is certainly not another computer-generated report overloading you with daily “updates.”  However, given the current pace of regulatory developments, revisions, proposals, and remands at the Federal, state, and even local level, regulatory tracking can occupy a substantial piece of an environmental manager’s already constrained schedule.

ALL4’s EnviroReview represents a cost effective environmental regulatory tracking alternative with a new twist. While many of our clients appreciate that EnviroReview is customized by our team of environmental consultants and is specific to their facilities, there is something else we can offer.  I think what you need isn’t more information; it’s more personal support.  Wouldn’t it be helpful to talk with an actual regulatory expert; someone that could discuss environmental regulations with you?  How about a call every month with an environmental consultant, someone who knows the industry and can discuss your regulatory obligations, questions, and concerns.  Wouldn’t that be nice…getting a little support, not just from a computer, but from a real person?  Please contact us with any questions related to EnviroReview.

Continued Spotlight on Utilities (or What Else is New?)

After an active 2010 of compiling information, testing electric generating units (EGUs), and outlaying considerable funds and resources for U.S. EPA’s Utility MACT Information Collection Request (ICR), 2011 got off to an active start with the first quarter proposal of U.S. EPA’s Utility MACT.  For those familiar with the legal history, the saga has been dragging on for over 10 years.  As proposed, the spotlight of the Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 112 based regulations (40 CFR Part 63, Subpart UUUUU) is on coal and oil fired EGUs and establishes emission limits in a MACT Floor command and control fashion.  The proposed regulation concentrates on mercury, acid gases, non-mercury metals, and organic air toxics amongst the subcategories.

U.S. EPA held public meetings and a comment period, absorbed the public’s abundant comments, extended the promulgation date from November 16, 2011, and on December 21, 2011, provided the regulated public with an early Christmas present (1,117 pages of holiday bliss to be exact).  The official Federal Register version of the rule will be out in January, and from this date, the compliance timeline starts to tick away (contingent upon any major legal action).

Speaking of legal actions, let’s talk about CSAPR (Cross States Air Pollution Rule), formerly known as both CAIR and CATR (even if for a brief, proposed, existence).  To welcome EGUs back from a long weekend of fireworks and celebrating America’s birthday, U.S. EPA finalized the “transport” rule as CSAPR on July 6, 2011, and officially published the regulation in the Federal Register on August 8, 2011.  CSAPR is driven by CAA Section 110, establishes trading programs for NOX and SO2 on an annual and ozone season basis, and affects EGUs in 28 states.  From proposal and until October 7, 2011 (rule effective date/deadline to file challenges), the gloves came off and many entities jumped into the boxing ring….utilities, environmentalists, states, etc….some “for” CSAPR and some “against.”  The first blow was delivered by EME Homer City on August 23 (against).  Next up….Exelon (for), then Luminant (against), Sierra Club/Environmental Defense Fund/Clean Air Council (for), Dynegy (for), Kansas (against), etc.

U.S. EPA saw the writing on the wall and on October 6, 2011 proposed “technical adjustments” to CSAPR.  However, they maintained that “CSAPR is a sound, achievable, market-based program that will deliver strong public health protections.”  The technical adjustments primarily focused on errors or potential errors in unit-specific modeling assumptions in approximately 10 states and the effective date of the assurance penalty provisions.   A public meeting was held on October 28, 2011 and comments were accepted until November 28, 2011.  How U.S. EPA will respond to the comments remains to be seen.

What will 2012 bring?  There’s no reason to believe that the spotlight on utilities that began with the origins of the CAA will dim anytime soon.  A betting person would be wise to predict continued legal action, perhaps with both the Utility MACT and CSAPR.  It would also be a wise move for EGUs to start planning for compliance with these rules, regardless of potential legal status.  As mentioned, the legal history is lengthy and storied with both of these rules, but at some point, EGUs will be faced with a need to develop compliance strategies.  For both of the rules, EGUs would be wise to give some thought to:

  • Overall compliance strategy and timeline
  • Meeting the emission limits/allowance requirements
  • Complying with the monitoring requirements/required monitoring modifications
  • Air quality permitting requirements
  • Ordering air pollution control (APC) equipment and commencing construction
  • Testing/commission requirements/schedule

Please contact ALL4’s Kristin Gordon at 610.933.5246 x301 or kgordon@all4inc.com with any questions on the Utility MACT or CSAPR.

A Few Holiday Gifts from U.S. EPA

On December 2, 2011, U.S. EPA posted a pre-publication version of the proposed Major Source Boiler MACT (MSBM).  (You may recall that U.S. EPA originally published the final MSBM in the March 21, 2011 edition of the Federal Register, and then promptly withdrew the rule for reconsideration on May 18, 2011.)  Based on the tremendous number of comments received during the reconsideration period, U.S. EPA has proposed a large number of changes to the MSBM, including the following:

  • The rule’s compliance date will be 3 years following publication of the final reconsidered rule in the Federal Register.  U.S. EPA will be resetting the compliance clock when the final reconsidered rule is published because of the extended reconsideration period, and because of the extensive changes proposed to the rule.
  • Certain subcategories of affected units will be given an option to comply with a particulate matter (PM) emission limit or a total suspended metals (TSM) emission limit.  The option to comply with TSM emission limits could be advantageous for boilers that fire fuels containing low amounts of metals such as biomass boilers.
  • Numeric emission limits for dioxins and furans (D/F) were replaced with work practice standards after U.S. EPA re-evaluated the emission limits published in the March 21 version of the MSBM and realized that many of the emission limits were below the detection limits of the D/F test method.
  • Output-based emission standards have all been revised because, as many commenters correctly pointed out, the output-based emission standards in the March 21 version of the MSBM were calculated incorrectly.
  • Requirements for Energy Assessments have been clarified to tighten up the scope of the energy assessment.

A potentially beneficial compliance strategy that survived the latest iteration of the MSBM is the output based emission standard.  Historically, the MSBM emission standards where based on the “input” energy in terms of pounds of pollutant per MMBtu heat input.  Affected sources now have the option to comply with the output energy emission standards in terms of pounds of pollutant per MMBtu steam produced.  Output based emission standards allow affected sources to demonstrate compliance with the MSBM emission limits using “emission credits” generated by implementing energy efficiency projects that reduce the amount of energy that is needed to produce your output.  If a capital investment will be required in order to comply with the NESHAP, why not spend your money on the process rather than on an upgrade or new add-on air pollution controls.  U.S. EPA made several corrections to the output based emission standards in the latest iteration of the MSBM and now allows for emission averaging of affected sources.

Now that your 2012 air quality planning process has been altered anyway, why not seriously consider using the output based compliance option under MSBM?  Evaluate some hypothetical scenarios using the output based emission standard compliance option and be sure to comment during the public comment period on the details to ensure that your facility is in the best position to take advantage of qualifying energy efficient projects.  Once the proposed new MSBM has been published in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to submit comments.  One subject that U.S. EPA is requesting comments on is whether or not the inclusion of a new category for limited use boilers and process heaters is warranted, and if the new category is warranted, how “limited use” should be defined.  Please contact ALL4’s Eric Swisher at 610.933.5246 x117 or eswisher@all4inc.com with any questions related to the output based compliance option under MSBM.

Happy New Year!

We hope our air quality professionals’ synopsis have provided you with a unique outlook on 2012.  Have a fabulous holiday season and we wish you a prosperous and compliant new year.


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