EPA Proposes Rule to Allow Major Source HAP Reclassification

WASHINGTON (June 25, 2019) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule to implement the clear language of the Clean Air Act that allows a “major source” of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) to reclassify as an “area source” after acting to limit emissions to below the levels that define major sources. This proposal would relieve reclassified facilities from regulatory requirements intended for much larger emitters and encourage other sources to pursue innovations in pollution reduction technologies, engineering, and work practices.

“‘Once in, always in’ policies discourage facilities from deploying the latest pollution control technologies or modernizing in ways that increase efficiency and reduce emissions,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today’s proposal would remove a major regulatory burden and incentivize investments in technologies that improve air quality and public health.”

“This action is based on a clear reading of the statute that is in line with EPA’s guidance for other provisions of the Clean Air Act,” said Bill Wehrum, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “It will reduce regulatory burden for industries and the states while continuing to ensure stringent and effective controls on hazardous air pollutants.”

Today’s action would implement EPA’s reading of the Clean Air Act described in a January 2018 guidance memo withdrawing the “once in, always in” policy. Established in 1995, the “once in, always in” policy determined that any facility subject to major source standards would always remain subject to those standards—even if production processes changed or controls were implemented that eliminated or permanently reduced that facility’s potential to emit hazardous air pollutants. States, state organizations, and industries frequently noted that the “once in, always in” policy discouraged voluntary pollution abatement and prevention efforts and technological innovations that would reduce hazardous air pollution emissions. EPA’s January 2018 memo found EPA had no authority under the Clean Air Act to limit when a facility may be determined to be an area source and that facilities may be reclassified as area sources once their potential to emit hazardous air pollutants falls below the levels that define major sources.

EPA estimates that this proposal would result in cost savings when compared to the agency’s previous “once in, always in” policy. Of the estimated 7,920 sources subject to national emissions standards as a major source, EPA estimates nearly half could become area sources, saving $168.9 million in the first year and $163 million to $183 million annually (in 2014 dollars) in the following years.

EPA requests comment on all aspects of this proposal, including:

  • EPA’s position that the proposed approach is the proper reading of Clean Air Act section 112(a) and is consistent with the act’s clear language and structure.
  • Requirements for establishing effective HAP emissions limits.
  • Allowing limitations issued by the state/local/tribal air pollution control agencies to be recognized as effective provided they are legally and practically enforceable.
  • Safeguards that may be appropriate to protect against emissions increases.

EPA will accept comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

For more information:  https://www.epa.gov/stationary-sources-air-pollution/reclassification-major-sources-area-sources-under-section-112-clean

EPA Amends Two Provisions of 2016 NSPS for Oil and Gas Industry

WASHINGTON — EPA has finalized amendments for certain requirements contained within the 2016 oil and gas New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and proposed to withdraw the control techniques guidelines (CTG) – an action that EPA estimates would save $14 to $16 million in regulatory compliance costs for the oil and gas industry from 2021-2035.

“The technical amendments to the 2016 oil and gas NSPS are meant to alleviate targeted regulatory compliance issues faced by affected sources,” said EPA Office of Air and Radiation Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum.  “While this action addresses an immediate need, it does not deter the ongoing work at the Agency to assess the 2016 rule as a whole, including whether it is prudent or necessary to directly regulate methane.”

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EPA News: EPA Report Shows Air Emissions of Toxic Chemicals from Industrial Facilities Down More Than Half Since 2005

2017-01-13 Toxic Air Emissions Down 56 Percent

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released its annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis, which shows releases of toxic chemicals into the air fell 56% from 2005-2015 at industrial facilities submitting data to the TRI program.

“Today’s report shows action by EPA, state and tribal regulators and the regulated community has helped dramatically lower toxic air emissions over the past 10 years,” said Jim Jones, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “The TRI report provides citizens access to information about what toxic chemicals are being released in their neighborhoods and what companies are doing to prevent pollution.”

The report shows an 8% decrease from 2014 to 2015 at facilities reporting to the program contributed to this ten-year decline. Hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, toluene and mercury were among chemicals with significantly lower air releases at TRI-covered facilities. Medical professionals have associated these toxic air pollutants with health effects that include damage to developing nervous systems and respiratory irritation.

[Read more…]

Scientists Find Way to Convert CO2 Into Ethanol

CO2 to Ethanol

Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction to turn CO2 into ethanol, potentially creating a new technology to help avert climate change. Their findings were published in the journal ChemistrySelect.

Researcher had hoped to convert carbon dioxide that had been dissolved in water to methanol, a chemical released naturally by volcanic gases and microbes, which can cause blindness in humans if ingested.

But instead of methanol, they discovered they had ethanol, a primary component of gin and also a potential fuel source. Surprised, the team realized that not only was their new material converting the carbon dioxide to ethanol, it needed very little outside support.

The material is a small chip–about a square centimeter in size–covered in spikes, each just a few atoms across. Each spike is constructed out of nitrogen with a carbon sheath and a small sphere of copper embedded in each tip. The chip is dipped into water and carbon dioxide is bubbled in. The copper acts as a small lightning rod, attracting electricity and driving the first steps of the conversion of the carbon dioxide and water into ethanol, before the molecules move to the carbon sheath to finish the process.

Read more about this exciting development in the full article from Popular Science.

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