Tag Archives: Clean Air Act

EPA’s endangerment findings on greenhouse gas

As expected, EPA will be announcing today its final endangerment findings that greenhouse gas is harmful to public health. This is a followup to  recent Supreme Court ruling that directed EPA to make a determination on the public health impact of greenhouse gas.

This ruling gives EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas under the Clean Air Act.

EPA gets ready to regulate greenhouse gas

air pollution8On September 30, 2009, EPA announced a proposal that is focused on large facilities emitting over 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year. These facilities would be required to obtain permits that would demonstrate they are using the best practices and technologies to minimize GHG emissions.

The rule proposes new thresholds for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) that define when Clean Air Act (CAA) permits under the New Source Review (NSR) and title V operating permits programs would be required for new or existing industrial facilities.  Click here for a copy of EPA’s fact sheet on this latest regulatory proposal.

The NSR will trigger the need for PSD (Prevention of Significant Deterioration) permits for new source or major modification in attainment areas.

Some observers have noted that this EPA step is a strategic move to motivate industries to lobby the Senate for a Climate Change Bill. Many in industry would prefer to be regulated under a new Climate Change Bill than under the Clean Air Act.

When do you need an air permit?

Oh No...This is a question asked by many people in industry. In almost every state, you are required to obtain a state operating permit if you have an air emission source unlessthat source is specifically exempt by state regulations. An emission source would be any equipment or facility that is capable of emitting air contaminants to the atmosphere.

Different states have different exemptions. For example, in Illinois you are exempt from getting an air permit if your coating operation uses less than 5000 gallons of coating material including thinners (Illinois Title 35, subtitle B, chapter I, section 201.146(g)). If you have a print shop and you use less than 750 gallons of paint a year, you are exempt as well.

In southern California, the Air Quality Management District (AQMD)’s Rule 219 lists all the emission sources that are exempt from getting an air permit. For example, Rule 219(h) exempts printing operations that emit less than 3 lbs of VOC per day or 66 lbs of VOC per calendar month.

By the way, in every state and under the Clean Air Act, you must obtain a construction permit before you are allowed to install any air emission sources.  Sometime they call it a pre-construction permit. If you have purchased a new piece of equipment that is an emission source, you are not allowed to bolt it to the ground or wire it up. You can unwrap it and have it sit on the shop floor while you are waiting for your construction permit to be approved. Many companies have been fined by EPA for installing equipment without a construction permit. The agency may even order you to uninstall the emission source and pay a fine and apply for a construction permit.

This is often a bone of contention between the environmental staff (you) and production staff (them). The production folks may take 3 years to decide on a new piece of equipment. Once they have purchased it, they want to install it and run it right away. This is where you say to them: “No, you can’t do that. We have to apply for a construction permit first and that may take a month or two.”  If they were smart, they would have told you about the new equipment a month earlier before they take delivery of it so that you could start the permitting process.

That would be the ideal situation.

If you need the construction permit in a big hurry, you can pay the agency a fee to get on the “fast track”.

Cap-and-trade 101 revisited

I write a column for the Pollution Engineering magazine every two months. My August 2009 column was posted on my blog here. Apparently I touched a raw nerve out there with some of my readers. And that’s a good thing. Here is what one reader wrote to me in an emal:

You end your What is Cap-and-Trade article in the current Pollution Engineering with the question… Why should carbon emission control be treated any differently?  My answer… BECAUSE CO2 IS NOT A POLLUTANT OF CONSEQUENCE. 

At less than 400 ppm, CO2 is merely a trace component in the atmosphere and constitutes only about 4% of greenhouse gases.  Human-emitted CO2 is only 3% to 4% of total atmospheric CO2 and the remainder comes from natural sources (and, incidentally, produces lots of vegetation).  Human-emitted CO2, therefore, is at most less than 0.0016 of greenhouse gases.  To suppose that tweaking that figure down some with cap-and-trade could possibly affect the Earth’s climate is an obvious absurdity.  Something like 90% or more of the greenhouse effect is cause by water vapor.  Furthermore, the effect of CO2 is logarithmic—i.e., as quantity increases, the greenhouse effect gradually levels off. ”

The same reader followed up with another email a day later:

Could you go to the next step and tell me what is erroneous in my 2nd paragraph?”

My email reply to him follows:

“For one thing, EPA’s proposed endangerment document is backed up by 171 pages of technical references. I don’t see any technical references to back up your claims.
The whole discussion on climate change is about ecological balance. Most scientists will tell you that it does not take much to tip the balance one way or the other. An increase of CO2 from 250 ppm to 400 ppm in the atmosphere could have dire consequences, according to many scientists.
Your argument for dismissal of the climate change issue is somewhat akin to the defendant who tells the judge that yes your honor, I did put a bullet in his head but that’s only 0.0003 percent of his total body weight. Don’t think his honor will buy that.”
Anyone else wants to chime in? Your comments are welcome. You can comment here or go to the original blog and post yoru comment there.

New development on the air front

emergency vehicleToday EPA granted California’s waiver from federal air emission standards for cars and trucks. This waiver means that California can enforce its own tailpipe greenhouse gas emission standards BEFORE the federal emission standards become effective 2012. The same waiver had been denied by the Bush EPA earlier.

This is another example that California and other states can have more stringent environmental standards than the federal standards.

Another development today is the Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling that Al Franken had won the Senate race. Norm Coleman conceded soon after the ruling came out. What that means is that there will now be 60 Democratic senators and that makes it easier for the Democrats to pass its cap-and-trade law in the Senate.

The House passed its cap-and-trade law (American Clean Energy Security Act) last week.