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Summary of the Recent North Carolina Manufacturers Alliance Air Quality Compliance Workshop (September 1 & 2, 2020)

Posted: November 17th, 2020

Authors: Thomas T. 

Workshop (September 1 & 2, 2020)

On September 1st and 2nd, the North Carolina Manufacturers Alliance held its annual Air Quality Compliance Workshop, though it was the first time this workshop was held virtually.   The workshop covered a range of topics from reviewing North Carolina’s clean energy plan and its progression, to highlighting recent updates concerning the Risk Management Plan Reconsideration Final Rule.  Multiple topics were presented throughout the two days, but a few of them stood out to us as having potential impacts on facilities in North Carolina that are subject to air quality regulations.

Day one of the workshop consisted of several presentations that gave updates concerning the status of North Carolina’s Department of Air Quality (DAQ) as a whole. A proposed change to Title V permit fees has been discussed by DAQ for 2021.  The Title V fee process will be changed due to a 13% decrease in Title V facilities, new federal regulations or amendments and their implementation, increased public interest, emerging compounds, and an increase in Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) applications occurring in house.  Ultimately, a model for a new Title V permit fee system based on workload and complexity as opposed to tonnage of air emissions was issued to stakeholders for review.  Over the next two years, DAQ plans to include an Accountability Report to analyze their workload and staffing/funding needs.
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Along with this change in fee structure, DAQ also provided updates concerning the use of emissions factors and the consolidation of the 1998 and 2005 memos into one memo to address an approval process for new emissions factors.  DAQ established that acceptable emissions factors will need to come from DAQ spreadsheets, US EPA AP-42, site-specific testing from the facility itself, or site-specific testing from a similar facility.  Any emissions factors derived from testing will require a submission of test report to DAQ for approval.  Throughout their presentation, DAQ emphasized how all emissions factors and summary tables in a permit application need to include the necessary reference documentation in order to keep the permit on schedule to be issued.  To increase efficiency of the process by which air permits are issued, DAQ has begun a review of all applications for “technical completeness” (e.g., proper forms have been filled out, emissions factors have an explanation of their origin, and sample calculations are provided) upon receipt.

DAQ has seen an increase in public interest in air permit applications.  A new item DAQ released to the public in May of 2019 is their Community Mapping Tool.  This tool maps out facilities with air permits in North Carolina, in addition to the type of permit issued to the facility.  DAQ uses this mapping tool when certain permit applications may lead to significant public concern and may warrant enhanced public engagement including an Environmental Justice Report.  DAQ has identified certain application types that will trigger this process including new major sources of hazardous air pollutants or criteria pollutants, major modification of a PSD facility that results in a significant emissions increase, and other projects that DAQ believes will warrant full review.)  Although this tool is utilized by DAQ for environmental justice reasons, this tool is available to the public for gathering information about surrounding permitted facilities.  DAQ encouraged facilities with planned significant modifications to engage with their communities prior to public notice of an air permit in support of timely permitting.

At the conclusion of day one, DAQ announced changes to their H74 Group 6 Rules (inclusive of Ambient Air Quality Standards, Emission Control Standards, Volatile Organic Compounds, Nitrogen Oxides, Municipal Solid Waste Landfills, and Group 5 Rules).  These changes have been reviewed and implemented as of November 2020. DAQ highlighted the following changes:

  • 02D .0530(u) – Removed the term “application” and restored the term “notification” removed the monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements for a source where projected actual emissions are less than 50% of the significance threshold
  • 02D .0536, Particulate Emissions from Electric Utility Boilers – Has been repealed
  • 02D .0932, .0960, .2615 – Removal of state-specific leak tightness testing certification requirement and deference to federal requirements
  • 02D .1702 – Adjustment of date for existing landfills to be subject to the Emissions Guidelines to July 17, 2014; update of citation to existing regulations for new landfills to 40 CFR 60 Subpart XXX

In addition to these updates, a description of an update to the Nitrogen Oxides (NO) State Implementation Plan (SIP) Call was provided.  This included an update to revise the NOx Rules in 15A NCAC 02D .1400 in order to:

  • Re-establish state-level NOx SIP Call ozone season budgets for electricity generating units (EGUs) and large industrial boilers.
  • Provide large industrial boilers with the option to use methods other than continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS) to calculate ozone season NOx

These changes will enable the removal of the Clean Air Interstate Rules (CAIR) from North Carolina’s Clean Air Act Section 110 SIP and may provide regulatory relief to owners or operators of large industrial boilers subject to the NOx SIP Call.

Day two of the workshop began with DAQ putting on a “mock air inspection.”  This involved a fun skit that detailed the good, bad, and ugly ways to handle compliance inspections. After this exercise, DAQ detailed explanations about what has been changed due to COVID-19.  Necessary inspections, audits, and stack test observations will still be going on following enhanced safety precautions; however, the number of on-site inspections are only occurring on a per case basis and virtual and partial compliance inspections should be expected to still happen.  DAQ also went on to highlight the following items as the most common compliance violations for facilities with air permits in 2019:

  • Violation of specific requirements in federal regulations (i.e., NSPS, NESHAP/MACT/GACT violations)
  • Failure to pay annual air quality permit fees
  • Late submittal of a report required by permit or regulation
  • Failure to conduct permit-required monitoring and/or recordkeeping
  • Violation of a synthetic minor or other similar type avoidance condition
  • General Duty – Failure to properly operate and maintain plant equipment
  • Violation of state air toxics rules

On day two, a member of DAQ delved into reasons the Risk Management Plan (RMP) Amendments Final Rule was reconsidered.  The rule was reconsidered because potential security risks with information disclosure requirements existed in the final Amendments rule, there were concerns over the costs of the Amendments rule, and there were concerns that the EPA did not adequately coordinate with OSHA.  The following modifications occurred as a result of this reconsideration:

  • Emergency Response Program/68.93(d) Emergency Coordination – modifications enabled emergency response planners to obtain information “necessary for” planning and implementation of local emergency response plans
  • Emergency Response Program/68.96(b)(1) Emergency Exercise – removed minimum frequency requirement for field exercises (owner or operator must still consult with response officials on frequency).
  • Emergency Response Program/68.96(b)(3) Emergency Exercise– changed documentation requirements by only recommending items for exercise reports
  • RMP Reconsideration FINAL Rule/68.210 Information Availability – rescinded requirement to provide chemical hazard information to public on request
  • RMP Reconsideration FINAL Rule/68.210 Information Availability – modified public meeting requirement to require meeting within 90 days only for accidents with off-site impact

Finally, the workshop concluded with a panel of DAQ members discussing topics such as general compliance, and Title V, PSD, and Small/Synthetic Minor permitting in the state of NC with workshop participants.  Overall, the workshop was a great experience that provided important updates about recent regulatory changes and the current status of environmental requirements during COVID-19.

If you have questions about North Carolina air quality regulations, please contact our Raleigh office for support.
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