Federal, State, and Local Changes to Air Permitting Requirements

Changes to EPA “Once In Always In” Policy for MACT Rules

On January 25th 2018, the EPA released a guidance memo reversing the “Once in Always in” (OIAI) policy regarding the classification of major source facilities subject to MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) standards. A major source is defined as any facility which emits at least 10 tons of any Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP), or 25 tons of any combination of HAPs. This policy, which has been in place since 1995, stated that any major source that becomes subject to a MACT rule must stay in compliance with that rule permanently, even if the facility finds a way to drop emissions below major source thresholds.

Opponents of the OIAI policy have long argued that the policy imposes an unfair regulatory burden on facilities that no longer emit pollutants at major source levels and prevents major source facilities from investing in novel changes in their production methods or new technologies that could limit air pollution more effectively than the methods imposed by the MACT rules. They also argue that the OIAI went against a “common sense” reading of the Clean Air Act which strictly defined area and major sources by their HAP emission levels, with no explicit exception allowing EPA to classify facilities below major limits as major sources.

With the new guidance memo in place, any major source facility currently subject to MACT regulations can apply to have their status changed to an area source if they are able to to reduce potential HAP emissions below major source thresholds, or if they agree to take a federally enforceable limit as a synthetic minor source. The benefits of a facility going through all these steps in order to lower is classification are the area and synthetic minor sources are subject to significantly fewer regulatory requirements compared to major sources. Major sources often have a variety of monitoring, data collection, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements imposed on them by the EPA.

The EPA’s policy reversal has been challenged in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals by the District Attorney of California and a coalition of environmental organizations due to concerns about the policy’s legality and potential impacts on public health. The issue revolves around the fact that MACT standards often result in pollutant levels that are lower than the major source thresholds. The plaintiffs are concerned that elimination of the OIAI policy will result in unacceptable increases in pollution as facilities choose to allow their emissions to rise to levels just under the major source thresholds. They state that this result would cause significant health problems across the nation and violates the intent of the Clean Air Act.

Although the policy reversal was declared effective immediately by the EPA, the legal challenges to this decision could take months or years to resolve in the courts. This uncertainty will likely play a large part in how facilities weigh the risks and advantages of taking action to have their current status changed from major to area or synthetic minor, since a future court decision may undo any effort facilities put into this decision in the short term.

Changes in Metro Atlanta Area’s Non-Attainment Status for Air Quality

Since 1992, 13 Metro Atlanta Area counties (Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dekalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding, and Rockdale), have been designated as severe non-attainment areas for the EPA 1-hour ozone air quality standard. This means that these counties are deemed to have air quality levels worse than the National Air Quality Standard, as defined in the Clean Air Act. Facilities wishing to obtain permits within this area were subject to the Non-Attainment Area New Source Review (NAA NSR) Rule, which defined facilities with a potential to emit 25 tons or more of VOCs or NOX as major sources subject to Title V requirements.

Recently, due to improvements in Metro Atlanta air quality, and the EPA revoking the 1-hour ozone standard, the Metro Atlanta Area is now designated as in attainment, meaning that the federal major source threshold for NOX and VOC emissions is increased to 100 tons per year. However, it is important to remember that specific State rules still contain 25 tons per year limits on NOX and VOC, so sites will still have to demonstrate compliance with these standards using control devices or other approved means of reducing or limiting emissions.

Changes to Air Permit Fees in Georgia

Effective on March 1, 2019, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) will begin charging processing fees for new air permit applications in order to cover the costs of the State’s air permit activities. These fees do not change or replace existing fee structures, such as annual air permit emission fees, and permit expedited processing fees. The schedule of new permit fees as found in the fee calculation manual (“Procedures for Calculating Air Permit Application and Annual Permit Fees for Calendar Year 2017,” dated February 8, 2018), can be found in the table below.

Permit Type

FY 2019 Application Fee

Minor Source Permit or Amendment

$250

Synthetic Minor Source Permit or Amendment

$1000

Generic (Minor or Synthetic Minor) Permit

$0

Major Source Permit or Amendment (but not subject to PSD, NSR or 112(g))

$2000

Name / Ownership Change

$250

Permit-by-Rule

$250

Title V 502(b)(10) Permit Amendment

$2000

Title V Minor Modification with Construction

$2000

Title V Minor Modification without Construction

$2000

Title V Significant Modification with Construction

$2000

Title V Significant Modification without Construction

$2000

Title V Renewal

$0

Off-Permit Change Request

$0

PSD Permit per 391-3-1-.02(7)

$7500

Nonattainment New Source Review Permit per 391-3-1-.03(8)(c) 112(g) permit per 391-3-1-.02(9)(b)16.

$7500

No Permit Required Exemption

$0

For more information on these updated rules and requirements, or if you would like to discuss how CTI can help your facility maintain compliance with air permitting, please contact us at www.conversiontechnoloy.com/contact.

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