EPA lightens GHG requirements for smaller sources

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to keep the regulations for the greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting thresholds for the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V Operating Permit programs as they are. However, EPA is proposing steps that would pinpoint only the largest emitters of GHGs, the Agency announced on Feb. 27.

EPA’s 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 needed to minimize GHG emissions and that only the largest emitters need permits.

After consultation with states and evaluating the process, EPA 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.

As of Dec. 1, 2011, EPA and state permitting authorities have issued 18 PSD permits addressing GHG emissions. These permits have required new and existing facilities that have chosen to make major modifications to implement energy efficiency measures to reduce their GHG emissions.

The GHG Tailoring Rule would continue to address 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.

Under the approach maintained in this 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.

EPA will accept comments on this proposal for 45 days after it is published in the Federal Register. A public hearing will be held on March 20, 2012, in Arlington, Va. to listen to public comment about the proposal.

For more information, go to http://www.epa.gov/nsr/.

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