EPA's said the proposal is consistent with its phased-in approach, announced in 2010, to "tailor" the requirements of the Clean Air Act to ensure that industrial facilities and state governments have the tools they need to minimize GHG emissions and that only the largest emitters need permits. After consultation with states and evaluating the process, EPA said it believes that the current approach is working well, and that state permitting authorities are currently managing PSD permitting requests. Therefore, EPA has proposed not to include additional, smaller sources in the permitting program at this time.
EPA indicated in a release that the GHG permitting program follows the same Clean Air Act process that states and industry have followed for decades to help ensure that new or modified facilities are meeting requirements to protect air quality and public health from harmful pollutants. As of December 1, 2011, EPA and state permitting authorities have issued 18 PSD permits addressing GHG emissions. These permits have required new facilities, and existing facilities that have chosen to make major modifications, to implement energy efficiency measures to reduce their GHG emissions.
EPA said the GHG Tailoring Rule would continue to address a group of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). The PSD permitting program protects air quality and allows economic growth by requiring facilities that trigger PSD to limit GHG emissions in a cost effective way. An operating permit lists all of a facility's Clean Air Act emissions control requirements and ensures adequate monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting. The operating permit program allows an opportunity for public involvement and to improve compliance.
Under the approach maintained in the proposal, new facilities with GHG emissions of at least 100,000 tons per year (tpy) carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) continue to be required to obtain PSD permits. Existing facilities that emit 100,000 tpy of CO2e and make changes increasing the GHG emissions by at least 75,000 tpy CO2e, must also obtain PSD permits. Facilities that must obtain a PSD permit, to include other regulated pollutants, must also address GHG emission increases of 75,000 tpy or more of CO2e. New and existing sources with GHG emissions above 100,000 tpy CO2e must also obtain operating permits.
- The first would increase flexibilities and improve the usefulness of plantwide applicability limitations (PALs) for GHGs. A PAL is an emissions limit applied sourcewide rather than to specific emissions points. With a PAL, a source can make changes to the facility without triggering PSD permitting requirements as long as emissions do not increase above the limit established by the PAL. This would allow companies to respond rapidly to changing market conditions while protecting the environment.
- The second approach would create the regulatory authority for EPA to issue synthetic minor permits for GHGs where EPA is the PSD permitting authority. A GHG source could agree to an enforceable GHG emissions limit set below a level that would trigger PSD permitting requirements. The process for obtaining a synthetic minor permit is generally less complicated than the PSD permitting process for a major source. This action would give facilities a mechanism to keep themselves out of major source permitting requirements for GHG as long as the source minimizes its GHG emissions.
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