Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Final GHG Rule "Common-Sense, Phased-In Approach"

Jul 3: U.S. EPA announced that it will not revise greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting thresholds under the Clean Air Act (CAA). EPA said its final rule is part a "common-sense, phased-in approach" to GHG permitting under the CAA, announced in 2010 and recently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit [See WIMS 6/26/12]. This is the third step in EPA's phased-in approach to greenhouse gas permitting under the CAA. The current applicability thresholds, established under Step 2 of the GHG Tailoring Rule, went into effect on July 1, 2011. The final rule will become effective 30-days following publication in the Federal Register.
    The final rule maintains a focus on the nation's largest emitters that account for nearly 70 percent of the total GHG pollution from stationary sources, while shielding smaller emitters from permitting requirements. EPA is also finalizing a provision that allows companies to set plant-wide emissions limits for GHGs [i.e. plantwide applicability limitations (PALs)], streamlining the permitting process, increasing flexibilities and reducing permitting burdens on state and local authorities and large industrial emitters. 
    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. EPA is also revising its regulations to allow a source that emits or has the potential to emit GHGs at levels above 100,000 tpy CO2e but that have emissions of other regulated pollutants at minor source levels to apply for a GHG PAL while still maintaining its minor source status.

    EPA indicated that after consulting with the states and evaluating the phase-in process, it believes that current conditions do not suggest that EPA should lower the permitting thresholds. Therefore, EPA will not include additional, smaller sources in the permitting program at this time. 

    The final rule affirms that new facilities with GHG emissions of at least 100,000 tons per year (tpy) carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) will continue to be required to obtain Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permits. Existing facilities that emit 100,000 tpy of CO2e and make changes increasing the GHG emissions by at least 75,000 tpy of 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.

    EPA's GHG permitting program follows the same CAA 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 May 21, 2012, EPA and state permitting authorities have issued 44 PSD permits addressing GHG emissions. These permits have required new facilities, and existing facilities that make major modifications, to implement energy efficiency measures to reduce their GHG emissions.

    The GHG Tailoring Rule will 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 CAA emissions control requirements and ensures adequate monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting. The operating permit program allows an opportunity for public involvement and to improve compliance. 

    Access a release from EPA and link to further information (click here). Access a fact sheet on the latest action (click here). Access a prepublication copy of the Final Rule (click here). [#Climate, #Air]
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