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Summary of NC, SC, and U.S. EPA Region 4 Air Regulatory Updates from Virtual CAPCA

Posted: November 13th, 2020

Authors: Ryan C. 

On October 22, 2020, the Carolinas Air Pollution Control Association (CAPCA) held its 2020 Fall Virtual Conference, presenting over 400 participants with updates from U.S. EPA Region 4, the North Carolina Division of Air Quality (NCDAQ), and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC).

Caroline Freeman, the newly named Director of Air and Radiation for U.S. EPA Region 4, provided administrative and Air Program updates, including the status of air quality improvements, progress on National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and regional haze rule implementation, Clean Air Act (CAA) regulatory and policy activity, and voluntary organization activities.  Administratively, Region 4 has welcomed Mary S. Walker and John Blevins to senior management positions, and reorganized the regional office to include three branches (Air Analysis and Support, Air Planning and Implementation, and Grants Management and Strategic Planning) under the Air and Radiation Division, itself serving as one of nine divisions of the regional organization.
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Region 4 is currently working with stakeholders on multiple focus areas to implement CAA requirements on both national and regional levels, including:

  • Reduction of non-attainment areas – one U.S. EPA goal is to reduce the number of non-attainment areas from 166 to 101 by September 30, 2022. Note that Region 4 contains only four non-attainment areas.
  • Regional haze – U.S. EPA released the Regional Haze Reform Roadmap in 2018, with Second Implementation Planning Period State Implementation Plans (SIPs) due July 31, 2021.
  • Start-up, Shutdown, and Malfunction (SSM) Events – U.S. EPA issued guidance on October 9, 2020 outlining whether and when it may be permissible for a state to include certain SSM provisions in a SIP, acknowledging that affirmative defense provisions may be acceptable for malfunction periods and recognizing penalties for sudden and unavoidable malfunctions beyond owner control may be inappropriate.
  • Risk and Technology Reviews (RTRs) of National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) – several final RTRs were published during the previous quarter, including Iron and Steel Foundries, Miscellaneous Coating Manufacturing, Plywood and Composite Wood Products Manufacture, and the Miscellaneous Organic NESHAP (MON).
  • Other Solid Waste Incineration (OSWI) units – U.S. EPA proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and emission guidelines (EG) for new and existing OSWI units on August 31, 2020, to amend applicability provisions, increase flexibility for testing and monitoring, and revise standards for small units based on representative data.
  • Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE) – Region 4 expects eight states to submit plans by the July 8, 2022 deadline to address the ACE package published in the Federal Register on July 8, 2019, which impacts approximately 125 units in the region.
  • Landfills – On March 9, 2020, U.S. EPA issued a notice of failure to submit 111(d) plans that include EG for existing landfills to all eight Region 4 states.
  • Ethylene Oxide (EtO) – On August 12, 2020, U.S. EPA finalized RTR amendments to the 2003 MON Rule, adding more stringent requirements for EtO emissions from storage tanks, process vents, and equipment leaks (among other changes). S. EPA estimates that the revised Information Collection Request (ICR) to inform their rulemaking activity related to EtO commercial sterilizers will be issued in December 2020.
  • Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – U.S. EPA continues to investigate PFAS-related concerns, investing in research for air analytical methods, dispersion modeling, and thermal destruction treatments.
  • Reclassification of Major Sources to Area Sources – On October 1, 2020, the Final Rule was signed to implement withdrawal of the 1995 Once-In-Always-In policy, allowing sources with HAP emissions lowered below major source thresholds to reclassify as area sources.

Region 4 is also participating in several voluntary programs to promote additional benefits to air quality.  Region 4 has initiated the Advance Program to collaborate with multiple state entities to promote local actions to reduce ozone and fine particulate pollution, supported the Southeastern Team Reducing the Impacts of Diesel Emissions (STRIDE) collaborative, and promoted the Energy Star program with over 750 partner companies.

Michael Abraczinskas, Director of NCDAQ, provided an update on the state of the air, COVID-19 impacts on the Department, and rulemaking in North Carolina.  NCDAQ has observed improvements in visibility in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and monitoring data has shown no ozone exceedances in 2020.  State-wide ozone NAAQS attainment, including in the Charlotte area, an area of initial concern, was assisted by a reduction in late-spring/early-summer NOx emissions primarily attributable to COVID-19 and associated reduced vehicle travel.

In addition to potential impacts on emissions levels, COVID-19 is impacting NCDAQ operations in several arenas.  NCDAQ is successfully navigating the challenges, maintaining ambient monitoring without data gaps, expanding virtual public-participation initiatives, and implementing additional compliance strategies, resulting in increased permitting productivity metrics since the initiation of teleworking.  As part of their enhanced public outreach, NCDAQ has developed guidelines for permits that are subject to Environmental Justice review, including new Title V facilities, major modifications at Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) major sources, and additional facilities at the discretion of the Director.

North Carolina air regulatory updates include:

  • Log Fumigation – 15A NCAC 02D .0546, Control of Emissions from Log Fumigation Operations, was adopted, establishing emission control requirements for bulk, chamber, and container log fumigation operations, compliance levels, and quarterly reporting requirements.
  • Methyl Bromide – 15A NCAC 02D .1104, Toxic Air Pollutant Guidelines, was amended to add Acceptable Ambient Levels (AAL) for the 24-hour (1.0 µg/m3) and annual (0.005 µg/m3) averaging periods.
  • Rule Re-adoption – NCDAQ participated in the decadal requirement to review all air quality rules (353), determining that 322 rules must be re-adopted by December 31, 2020 for SIP-approval.
  • Proposed Fee Changes – NCDAQ is currently taking comments on a proposal to modify Title V fees to account for a pending budget shortfall.
  • PFAS – NCDAQ continues to monitor background atmospheric deposition of PFAS at seven state monitors, with observations indicating few current detections.

Rhonda Thompson, Chief of the Bureau of Air Quality (BAQ) at SC DHEC, provided administrative, state of air, and rule-making updates in South Carolina.  Similar to Region 4, BAQ has reorganized, consolidating from four divisions to three divisions to balance sizes and realize cost savings.  Similar to NCDAQ, SC DHEC has observed an improvement in ozone levels, with decreased concentrations over the past decade and a reduction in exceedances from 455 in 2002 to four in 2019.  Reductions in fine particulate and SO2 have also been observed.  SC DHEC is also investigating the potential impact from COVID-19 due to traffic volume changes, with similar initial conclusions as those expressed by NCDAQ.  In response to the latest U.S. EPA National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) identifying North Charleston as a potential EtO hot spot, SC DHEC has implemented a sampling program and expanded community engagement to research and address EtO background levels.

SC DHEC has identified the need to replace and modernize the South Carolina Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Network as a high priority.  Aging infrastructure has been associated with data completeness and data quality issues, prompting a 10-year replacement plan and an associated funding request.  Similar to NCDAQ, SC DHEC is experiencing a reduction in fee revenue associated with reduced emissions, has implemented cost-saving efforts to maintain its current level of service, and has formed a stakeholder group to evaluate options, such as increasing or expanding fees for both major and minor sources.

South Carolina regulatory updates include:

  • ACE and Risk Management Plans (RMP) – SC DHEC will incorporate the ACE regulations and RMP amendments into the state rules.
  • Annual Revisions – SC DHEC will request the incorporation of U.S. EPA NSPS and NESHAP revisions, by reference, into the SIP.

During the business meeting that followed the technical portion of the meeting, our own Amy Marshall was elected to the CAPCA board of directors.  Amy is looking forward to being more involved in CAPCA over the next few years.

CAPCA is currently scheduled to hold its 2021 conferences from April 7-9 in Ashville, North Carolina and from October 13-15 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. ALL4 looks forward to participating in these events and hopes to see you there!

Contact Ryan Cleary at rcleary@all4inc.com or check out our other posts on our website for more information on any of these topics.
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