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Pennsylvania RACT III Update: Draft Rule Published, Comment Period Is Now Open

Posted: August 25th, 2021

Authors: Christine C. 

On August 7, 2021, the draft rule affectionately known as “RACT III” [25 Pa. Code §§ 129.111-129.115, Additional RACT Requirements for Major Sources of NOX and VOCs for the 2015 Ozone NAAQS] was published in the Pennsylvania bulletin.  This marks the beginning of a 60-day public comment period.  Comments must be submitted on or before October 12, 2021.  The proposed RACT III rule can be viewed, and comments can be submitted through the Pennsylvania eComment website.

For context, Pennsylvania is located in the Northeast Ozone Transport Region (OTR) and Pennsylvania, in its entirety, is managed as a moderate non-attainment area with regards to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone.  Section 182 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C.A. §7511a) requires that, for areas that exceed the NAAQS for ozone, states shall develop and administer a program that mandates that certain major stationary sources implement reasonably available control technology (RACT).  The proposed RACT III rule is in response to the October 26, 2015 revisions to the ozone NAAQS.  A re-evaluation of RACT for affected sources must be fulfilled each time the U.S. EPA revises a NAAQS.

So, now what?  First, it is crucial that you get started on your RACT III applicability determination now.  Although the proposed RACT III rule looks very much like the 2016 RACT II rule, looks can be deceiving.  There are several new presumptive requirements and revised (i.e., more stringent) presumptive requirements that may affect your facility and potentially change how compliance is demonstrated.  For existing RACT affected facilities, there is a chance that your RACT II emissions limitations will not change.  However, unlike RACT II, affected facilities (new and existing) will be required to assess RACT III applicability and submit a notification to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP).  One additional key change is that NOX and VOC sources that were newly installed between July 12, 2012 and August 3, 2018 will now be “RACT affected.”  Below I’ve laid out the main changes that PADEP has proposed to RACT III as compared to RACT II.

Notification Requirements

All major sources of NOX and/or VOC in Pennsylvania will need to make at least one submission to PADEP, even if the requirements for your facility have not changed from RACT II – an initial notification of RACT III applicability will be due six months after the rule’s promulgation.  The notification will essentially be an applicability determination, identifying your exempt sources (and bases), affected sources, and your intended methods of compliance.

New and Revised Presumptive RACT Requirements

Several presumptive RACT limits are more stringent than the limits imposed by RACT II, including:

  • Municipal solid waste combustors
  • Certain types of combustion turbines
  • Lean burn and rich burn stationary internal combustion engines
  • Portland cement kilns

In addition, RACT III adds new presumptive requirements for several source categories that were not included in RACT II:

  • Natural gas compression and transmission facility fugitive VOC air contamination sources
  • Electric arc furnaces
  • Propane-fired combustion units and process heaters
  • Glass melting furnaces
  • Lime kilns
  • Direct-fired heaters, furnaces, or ovens

New Affected Sources

New sources that were installed after the RACT II applicability date in July 2012 and prior to the RACT III applicability date in August 2018 will now be “RACT affected.”  This means that these sources would not have been evaluated previously for RACT and must be evaluated for the first time under RACT III.  Even if the source meets more stringent Best Available Technology (BAT) than the corresponding presumptive RACT requirement, the source must at the very least be identified for the RACT III Notification.  Anything installed post-August 2018 would be a new source exempt from RACT III, and also likely meets more stringent BAT.

Changes to CEMS Averaging Periods

If you’re using a NOX continuous emissions monitoring system (CEMS) to comply with RACT II for a combustion unit (boiler) or process heater, this is a big one.  PADEP is proposing to change the averaging period for CEMS data from a 30-operating day average to a daily average.  If you have a source that will be subject to this new daily average, there are still questions on how this new average will be required to be calculated and validated since it is not addressed in the current version of the rule.  Now is the time to evaluate your historic CEMS data, determine if there are any foreseen issues with demonstrating compliance based on how the daily average is defined, and then submit comments if appropriate.  Refer to our previous blog post on this topic for more details on what this could mean for you.

Important Dates

Mark these on your calendar!

  • August 7, 2021 – DRAFT RACT III Rule published in the PA Bulletin
  • October 12, 2021 – The 60-day public comment period for the draft rule closes
  • 4Q2021 – PADEP hopes to address public comments and finalize the rule by the end of the year
  • 2Q-3Q 2022 – The due date for all submissions (initial applicability notification, NOX averaging plans, stack test waiver requests, alternative RACT proposals, and alternative compliance schedule requests) will be due six months from final rule promulgation (start your applicability analyses now!)
  • January 1, 2023 – The final compliance date of the rule, as dictated by U.S. EPA

Affected facilities will be facing a similar time crunch with RACT III as experienced with RACT II.  PADEP has provided only six months for all submissions to be in, leaving PADEP only about 3-6 months to review, approve, and update permits before the January 1, 2023 compliance date.  The RACT III rule, as proposed, is not likely to change substantially from the proposed version.  Based on our experience during the implementation of RACT II in 2016, it would be prudent for affected facilities to begin the RACT III planning process now.

Here’s where ALL4 can step in and help you!  Give us a call or drop me an email to discuss the specifics on how this rule will impact your facility.

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