4 The record articles

Tightening the Screws – Lower NAAQS Mean Higher Costs

Posted: April 20th, 2010

Author: All4 Staff 

ALL4’s Ambient Group continues to track and provide you with updates on the latest developments related to National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The NAAQS are the primary basis for the permitting of new stationary sources and modifications to stationary sources in the United States. A region’s compliance status with the NAAQS dictates how new major stationary sources and modifications to existing major stationary sources are permitted via the New Source Review (NSR) process (i.e., Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) or Nonattainment New Source Review (NNSR)). Lowered NAAQS become increasingly important during the PSD process since the new, extremely stringent NAAQS levels tend to influence the level of control required for a given project and could ultimately doom an otherwise environmentally beneficial and technically sound project. The following reduced NAAQS levels are, or will be, relatively new to the air quality permitting process: 

  • PM2.5 (Annual and 24-hour NAAQS evaluated in 2006) 
  • NO2 (New 1-hour NAAQS that became effective on April 12, 2010) 
  • SO2 (New 1-hour NAAQS scheduled to become effective in June 2010) 

These new and proposed standards will make it increasingly difficult to obtain agency environmental approval for new or existing facility expansion and modernization projects. Now more than ever, the NAAQS and the associated air dispersion modeling requirements will dictate the viability of new projects and the way that new projects are designed, representing a distinct shift from Best Available Control Technology (BACT) influence. The more stringent NAAQS levels in combination with other regulatory initiatives are also expected to dampen the momentum around the development of combustion-related alternative fuel projects (e.g., biomass combustion). At a minimum, the new standards will require inventive approaches to construction permitting that may not have been necessary in the past. Stay tuned for next month’s 4 The Record for a detailed update on the new NAAQS, their impacts on new source permitting, and ALL4’s recommendations on how to address the standards. 


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