Making Decisions Under EPA’s New Ozone Rule

Posted on 12/9/2014 by Anthony Cardno

On November 25, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially proposed new regulation to lower the acceptable amount of ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 65 ppb and 70 ppb. Ozone—a major component of smog—is one of six "criteria pollutants" for which EPA sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), along with carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide. The NAAQS standards limit the amount of each pollutant in the air that is deemed acceptable for humans to breath. EPA's decision is based on conclusions of a regular review of its NAAQS standards that began in 2013.

A lower ozone standard could have a significant effect on manufacturing, energy production, and industrial facilities nationwide. In regions where the amount of a criteria pollutant in the air exceeds EPA's standard, facilities are subject to more stringent reporting and pollution control measures, especially when planning new construction or expansion.

Air Quality Control Regions (AQCRs)

Every state in the country is divided into Air Quality Control Regions. Each region is monitored for each of the six criteria pollutants and is designated as being in attainment (the amount of that pollutant in the air meets the NAAQS and air quality is deemed "acceptable") or in non-attainment (the amount of that pollutant in the air exceeds the NAAQS and air quality is deemed "unacceptable"). Obtaining a permit to construct (PTC) your new source or modify an existing source, and determining appropriate emissions control technology under that permit, is typically more time-consuming and expensive in regions designated as being in non-attainment.
History of the Ozone NAAQS

The NAAQS for ozone sets the maximum amount of ground-level ozone (O3) that can be in the air and have the air still considered to be acceptable for human health. As time has passed and technology has improved, EPA has changed this standard four times, generally lowering the acceptable level each time. Details on these changes can be found here.

Region Re-designation and New Source Review

Each time the standard changes, every AQCR must be re-assessed in light of the new standard. This often results in regions that were in attainment being re-designated as non-attainment. The re-designation of the AQCR your facility is in, or in which you'd like to build a new facility, impacts your requirements under the New Source Review (NSR) program.

New Source Review is a pre-construction review program designed to determine if emissions control technology must be installed during the construction of a new source of emissions of the criteria pollutants. However, the requirements of NSR are different depending on the AQCR's attainment/non-attainment designation.

New Source Review largely applies to the construction of brand-new major sources and to major modifications of existing major sources. Here's the first complication: the definition of "major source" is different depending on the region's designation. The definition for "major source" in non-attainment areas is more inclusive than the definition for "major source" in attainment areas.

A change in the NAAQS for ozone could force a region to be re-designated as being in non-attainment, which would then subject new and expanding sources in that region to the non-attainment definition of "major source," thus requiring New Source Review for projects that would not have been subject to the program under the attainment area definition of "major source."

Different Compliance Requirements

Here's the second complication: Regions also have different requirements for compliance with NSR based on the region's attainment/non-attainment designation. The compliance requirements in non-attainment areas involve more stringent control technology requirements and tougher permitting. In attainment areas, the permitting authority may take economic factors into account; in non-attainment areas this is typically not allowed. Non-attainment control measures are typically more up to date, cutting edge, and expensive. The EPA does maintain a guidance document for determining what measures should be proposed/implemented under New Source Review.

Any changes to the NAAQS for ozone will appear as a proposed rule first, published by EPA in the Federal Register. Following the publication and a period of public comment, EPA will publish the final version of the rule. Lion Technology is tracking this process and will keep you informed.

New Clean Air Act Regulations Now Available

A new online course is now available to help environmental engineers, EHS managers, and compliance officers keep their facilities in compliance with the US EPA’s Clean Air Act programs. The Clean Air Act Regulations guides professionals through compliance with Title V permit requirements, emissions and pollution controls, annual greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting, Risk Management Planning (RMP) responsibilities, and more. 

Build the expertise needed to make informed on-the-job decisions that help your site control pollution and maintain compliance. Interactive, easy to use, and available 24/7, the new online course will help you get up to speed with new and changing EPA clean air rules and protect your facility from costly EPA enforcement. 

Tags: Act, Air, Clean, new rules

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