TCEQ Air Quality 101 Blog Series: Texas Compliance
Posted: November 28th, 2017Author: All4 Staff
After working as an environmental consultant at All4 Inc. (ALL4), I can look back on my time in the oil and gas industry and recollect all the practices we put in place to improve environmental performance. Given the vitality of the industry and our lack of experience with regulations associated with compliance activities, there were many hurdles that we had to overcome to both ensure compliance and reduce risk.
As an air quality consultant, I now help many clients that are in the position I’ve been in with regards to compliance and risk reduction on a daily basis. The primary difference is that I now work with a suite of clients from various industrial sectors and regions. Contemplating the differences, I realized that strategies to ensure regulatory compliance and risk reduction reflect a common mindset and structured approach, regardless of industrial sector or region. Because the bulk of my experience is in Texas, I feel compelled to share my own “Top Five” list of strategies to both ensure compliance and reduce risks associated with Texas air quality regulations. Please read on as I discuss common requirements and my recommendations.
Compliance requirements come in many shapes and sizes
Facilities in Texas are typically subject to an array of various Federal and State air quality requirements. The breadth and magnitude of the applicable air quality requirements will vary with the complexity of the facility and will be spelled out in an Operating Permit(s) as well as the facility’s New Source Review (NSR) Permit(s), and any Standard Permits or Permits by Rule (PBRs). Each permit will also have unique reporting requirements associated with it.
At the Federal level, key regulations include the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) in 40 CFR Part 63 and the Standards of Performance for New Stationary Sources (NSPS) at 40 CFR Part 60. The NESHAP and NSPS rules establish emissions standards and specify notification, monitoring, recordkeeping, reporting, and testing requirements for various source categories. For example, 40 CFR Part 63, Subpart ZZZZ – National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Stationary Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines, a NESHAP rule, regulates stationary reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICE) and its requirements can include compliance testing, parametric monitoring, and everything in between based on an engine’s specifications.
For the oil and gas industry, 40 CFR Part 60, Subpart OOOOa – Standards of Performance for Crude Oil and Natural Gas Facilities for which Construction, Modification or Reconstruction Commenced After September 18, 2015, an NSPS rule, requires periodic Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) surveys based on the type of affected facility. Compliance with emissions testing and LDAR requirements typically require a third party to perform the work and generate compliance reports. The emissions testing and LDAR programs require notifications and report submittal to the Administrator [typically delegated from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)] and possibly electronically through the Compliance and Emissions Data Reporting Interface (CEDRI) system located on U.S. EPA’s application for transmitting electronic environmental data known as the Central Data Exchange (CDX).
Many NESHAP and NSPS rules specify the use of continuous monitoring systems (CMS). CMS can be direct via continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS) and/or indirect via continuous parametric monitoring systems (CPMS). CMS requirements are prevalent in rules impacting many manufacturers including the Portland cement, glass, petroleum refining, and chemical manufacturing industries. While each rule’s subpart specifies CMS and related monitoring provisions, the common monitoring requirements of the “General Provisions” cannot be overlooked.
State-specific rules include their own set of requirements but generally include the same basic components as Federal rules. At the state level in Texas, facilities may be required to submit routine reports throughout the year to TCEQ. In Texas, that involves the 30 TAC 101.10 Annual Emissions Inventory Updates (AEIU) requirements as well as the Title V operating permit reporting requirements of 30 TAC 122.145 and 122.146 for semiannual monitoring reports, semiannual deviation reports and annual compliance certifications [also referred to as Permit Compliance Certification (PCC)], respectively. AEIUs must be submitted to TCEQ via the State of Texas Environmental Electronic Reporting System (STEERS), the electronic reporting portal in Texas. Compliance with routine reporting requirements can be difficult without finely-tuned monitoring and recordkeeping programs in place.
The Highly Reactive Volatile Organic Compounds (HRVOC) requirements in 30 TAC 115, Subchapter H require additional monitoring and emissions control requirements on select equipment in the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria (HGB) area. An example is the requirement to install and operate CMS on vents and flares subject to the rule.
Compliance with air quality requirements for Texas facilities can be a daunting task, but it does not need to be. From my industry and consulting experience, my top six compliance and risk reduction strategies for Texas facilities are presented below.
Top Six Compliance/Risk Reduction Strategies for Texas (because 5 was not enough):
1. Confirm Applicability and Establish a Compliance “System”
- Once the regulatory requirements have been identified, compliance systems need to be set up to determine the best way to comply with the regulations.
- Identify clear compliance mechanisms for each applicable air quality requirement as the rules don’t always provide a clear direction on exactly how to demonstrate compliance. We call these “grey areas” and it’s important to document your approach to compliance where the rule doesn’t provide clear direction.
2. Perform Frequent Data Reviews
By increasing the frequency of data review, you can save yourself headaches down the road.
- Reviewing monitored data just to look for aberrations and inconsistencies can catch or even prevent potential deviations.
- More frequent reviews can save you valuable time as you approach reporting deadlines.
- Identifying potential issues ahead of time can sometimes head off compliance issues, or at least minimize them.
3. Incorporate Third-Party Report Oversight
In addition to confirming that testing or LDAR inspections were completed, frequent review of third-party reports can improve other compliance aspects.
- Guaranteeing the tests are done correctly, using the appropriate methods, and under the necessary operating conditions.
- Ensuring proper communication, timing, and direction for personnel gathering data. This minimizes delays in receiving the final reports and ensures expectations can be met.
- Maintaining awareness of compliance limits and data trends can prevent potential deviations. The sooner you can identify a potential problem, the sooner you can prevent (or fix) it!
4. Provide Training
Knowledgeable personnel will decrease your out-of-compliance risk.
- Provide regular training at all levels of the company.
- External training equips your environmental staff to better understand the regulations, which improves their knowledge regarding compliance activities required on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis.
- Internal training allows your environmental staff to share the knowledge gained from external training with personnel across your own company.
- Both types of training provide the environmental staff and their fellow employees an improved understanding of how to meet their facility’s requirements, prevent future non-compliance, and allow personnel to remain updated with updated applicable regulations.
5. Perform Regular Self-Audits and Periodic Third-Party Audits
Auditing has been shown to be an effective means to ensure that compliance systems are operating as intended (or not).
- Conducted under the Texas Environmental, Health & Safety Audit Privilege Act, such audits can provide your company protection by self-disclosing any issues that may arise.
- Allows companies to correct any ongoing problems via a corrective action program in advance of a State or Federal inspection (which could result in costly violations).
6. Develop and Implement Robust Recordkeeping Systems
Robust recordkeeping is your key to compliance documentation. These systems need to be consistent, robust, and validated.
- A well-designed and maintained Excel spreadsheet can be just as useful as automated recordkeeping.
- In my experience, one of the greatest possible pitfalls in generating compliance records is human error. For example, employees keeping hardcopy logbook records for their daily checks, may not input the information until weeks later. When the employee finally gets around to transferring the data onto a spreadsheet, they could misplace the record, forget a vital piece of information, or outright mistype the data. In instances like these, using computer generated reports, or implementing a data validation step can make or break your compliance records. This can especially help when trying to keep accurate emissions for AEIU.
Where do you stand?
A robust air quality compliance and recordkeeping system will enhance compliance and reduce environmental risk. Further, it will provide your environmental staff with peace of mind when preparing annual compliance certification documentation for signature by the responsible official. ALL4 can serve as a valuable resource during the development, implementation and maintenance of your compliance system. We provide training, compliance reviews, audits, monitoring and recordkeeping systems, and record reviews. If your facility’s environmental compliance is keeping you up at night, don’t hesitate contact us.