What’s New from NC DAQ
Posted: April 12th, 2021Authors: Philip C.
The North Carolina Division of Air Quality (NC DAQ) recently provided an update on their recent activities to the regulated community. Although most staff are still working from home, NC DAQ has been busy with air permitting, revising regulations, and ensuring that facilities are meeting their compliance obligations. The following is a brief summary of some of the items discussed that are important to NC facilities on a day-to-day basis.
After serving as acting Permitting Section Chief, Mark Cuilla has been named the permanent Permitting Section Chief at NC DAQ following the passing of William Willets. Like much of NC DAQ, staff in the permitting section continue to work from home as much as possible due to COVID-19. Although DAQ is accepting electronic submittals of permit applications, signed hard copies still need to be submitted as well.
Facilities submitting major permit applications may have experienced NC DAQ’s new “Enhanced Participation” process, which NC DAQ is using to address environmental justice (EJ). The process applies to 1) the first time a facility applies for a Part 70 permit; 2) permits for modifications with a significant emissions increase under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program; and 3) permits at the Director’s discretion (e.g., projects in areas with existing public concerns). If the project meets one of the three criteria, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) will perform an EJ review. If the project is in an EJ community, NC DEQ will draft an EJ report that is sent to the facility and the public for review and comment. NC DEQ will then assign and complete action items such as public notices, translations to Spanish, distribution of educational material, frequently asked question documents, and separate public meetings. If a project that meets the criteria above is not in an EJ area, the Enhanced Participation process consists of a public comment period with a public hearing, if required. NC DAQ may consider codifying the Enhanced Participation process in the future, but for now, it’s an outreach program that the Division completes within the current permitting timelines. If you are planning a major project soon, you should consider the impact this process could have on your project timeline.
To learn more about how EJ communities are identified in North Carolina, see Steve Moore’s related article “Environmental Justice and Air Quality Permitting in the Carolinas.”
Air Quality Rules Update
NC DAQ also provided updates to rule revisions the Division is working on. A few highlights:
- Title V Permit Fee Revision Rule – this rule would increase the annual Title V permit base fee from $7,423 to $8,775, and the tonnage fee from $34.30/ton to $40/ton. The rule would also add “complexity” fees of $2,500 per year for “moderately complex” facilities and $7,500 per year for “highly complex” facilities [“complexity programs” are PSD, Clean Air Act 112r, Standards of Performance for New Stationary Sources (NSPS), and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants]. Permit application fees would also increase from $988 to $3,000 for minor modifications, $988 to $7,000 for significant 1-step modifications, and from $1,976 to $7,000 for significant 2-step modifications. The rule was submitted to the Rules Review Commission in mid-February, but the effective date of the rule is unknown at this time because 10 letters of objection were received. Note the baseline year for the fees presented above is 2020.
- NC DAQ is amending the existing rules in Title 15A of the North Carolina Administrative Code (NCAC) 2D. 1700 for consistency with the updates to 40 CFR Part 60 Subpart Cf – the Emission Guidelines for Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfills. The biggest change to the rule is that the applicability threshold based on emissions of nonmethane organic compounds has decreased from 50 megagrams per year to 34 megagrams per year (the threshold for closed landfills is still 50 megagrams per year). The rule text has been published in the NC Register and the 60-day comment period ends April 16, 2021. A virtual public hearing was held on March 24. NC DAQ expects the rule to become effective in September 2021.
- Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) State Implementation Program (SIP) Update – NC DAQ is working to re-establish state-level NOx SIP call ozone season budgets and monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements for electric utility steam generating units (EGUs) and non-EGUs, and removing vacated Clean Air Interstate Rule provisions. NC DAQ is also revising rules in response to the U.S. EPA’s March 8, 2019 rule Emissions Monitoring Provisions in State Implementation Plans Required under the NOx SIP Call (84 FR 8422) to allow alternatives to NOx continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS) for non-EGUs subject to the SIP call as long as a CEMS isn’t required by another rule. The rule revisions are expected to be effective in January 2022.
NC DAQ ended the meeting with a brief compliance update. Most facilities have likely experienced a “virtual” inspection in the past year. These virtual inspections help keep NC DAQ and facility employees safe; however, NC DAQ signaled that the Division is transitioning back to full on-site inspections. Facilities that received a virtual inspection last year should expect to receive a follow-up on-site inspection this year. For now, NC DAQ is still providing advanced notice for on-site inspections to allow facilities to address any necessary safety protocols, but NC DAQ made it clear that they plan to transition back to unannounced inspections once it’s safe to do so.
One of the final topics covered was incorporation of revised operating parameter limits (e.g., scrubber pressure drop and flow, boiler operating load, etc.) into facilities’ operating permits. If you’ve received a new permit recently, you likely noticed that NC DAQ is now incorporating numerical operating parameter limits as permit conditions. When re-establishing operating limits through stack testing, more stringent limits apply immediately and can be incorporated into your permit via an administrative amendment. If the new operating parameter limit is less stringent than the currently permitted limit, you must apply for a permit revision in order to use the less stringent limit and you must continue to comply with your current permit limit until you obtain a new permit.
ALL4 continues to monitor developments in air quality permitting and compliance specific to North Carolina and NC DAQ. If you have questions on any of the items above, or want to know more about how developments at NC DAQ could affect your facility, please contact Philip Crawford or your ALL4 project manager for additional information.