4 The record articles

Spare Parts and Permit Conditions

Posted: September 25th, 2012

Author: All4 Staff 

A seemingly simple question was recently raised by an ALL4 client regarding the level of spare parts inventories that facilities are obligated to keep on hand for air pollution control equipment, as required by applicable air permits.  The question prompted a review of the facility’s operating permit to identify any specific obligations.  While the operating permit did include specific requirements for the facility to maintain an adequate inventory of spare “bags” for several fabric filter dust collectors, it was not surprising that that the permit was silent regarding specific spare parts inventories for other types of air pollution control (e.g., selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR), dry sorbent injection, etc.).  While the short answer to the question is that operating permits generally do not require spare parts inventories to be maintained for such systems, the real answer is a bit more complex as compliance with several typical operating permit conditions could be impacted by the availability of spare parts for critical air pollution control systems as listed below:

  • General Duty Requirements – Operating permits may include conditions that reflect a “general duty” for the facility to operate and maintain sources and air pollution control devices in accordance with “good engineering practice” or “good operating practices.”  Such terms are very generic with potentially broad implications and the case that maintaining an inventory of spare parts for critical equipment would be viewed as a “good engineering practice and good operating practice” and that failure to do so is not.
  • Maintenance/Repair Requirements – Operating permits may include conditions with specific language regarding the implications associated with the failure of a facility to adequately maintain or repair air pollution control equipment.  Failure to maintain an inventory of spare parts for a piece of critical air pollution control equipment could be viewed as a failure to maintain air pollution control equipment in the event of an equipment malfunction or breakdown, should a key spare part not be readily available.
  • Affirmative Defense – With both federal and state regulators focusing on “affirmative defense” provisions, developing an affirmative defense in response to a malfunction of an air pollution control systems would be much easier if spare parts to address the malfunction were readily available on-site.
  • Cessation of Operations – 40 CFR Part 70 requires that operating permits include language that prohibit facilities from citing the need to halt or reduce a permitted activity to maintain compliance with a permit term or condition in the defense for an enforcement action.  Based on this language, if spare parts are not readily available and must be ordered resulting in an extended malfunction of the control device (and presumed permit violations if operations continue), it is almost imperative that the process be shutdown during the malfunction to mitigate any enforcement action.
  • Negligence – Operating permits may include conditions that disqualify upset conditions caused by “poor maintenance or careless operation” as malfunctions.  Malfunctions are generally categorized as not reasonably preventable.  A lack of adequate spare parts for air pollution control equipment could be viewed as “poor maintenance or careless operation” by a regulatory agency.

When planning spare part inventories for air pollution control equipment, it would be prudent to discuss typical key spare parts lists for affected equipment with system vendors and to have a clear understanding of the associated order and delivery times.  If the equipment is new to the site, discussions with facilities that use similar equipment regarding their operational experience and maintenance practice is recommended.  On an extreme note, it may be wise to evaluate the cost of maintaining an inventory of air pollution control system spare parts on-site with the costs associated with an unanticipated and extended production outage that could result from an air pollution control system breakdown.


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