EPA Finalizes Thresholds for Greenhouse Gas Permitting Requirements

On May 13, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the largest stationary sources while shielding millions of small sources of GHGs from Clean Air Act permitting requirements. The final rule, “Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule,” defines when permits under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V operating permit programs are required for new and existing industrial facilities.

“After extensive study, debate, and hundreds of thousands of public comments, EPA has set common-sense thresholds for greenhouse gases that will spark clean technology innovation and protect small businesses and farms,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. The agency received about 450,000 comments during a 60-day comment period after it issued a proposed rule in October 2009.

The National Renderers Association (NRA) joined a coalition of food, feed, ingredient, beverage, and consumer product processors to comment on the proposed rule. The consensus of the coalition was the rule was unneeded and unjustified, and that it would have significant impact on industry, jobs, and ultimately food prices.

“While the group’s concerns did not stop the final rule, it was successful in getting some significant changes that will mitigate some of the impact,” said Dr. David Meeker, NRA Scientific Services.

Beginning in January 2011, the threshold level will be 100,000 tons per year (tpy) of GHG emissions rather than the 25,000 tpy originally proposed (until June 2013, then EPA proposes to lower it to 50,000 tpy through new rulemaking). For plants already subject to the PSD permitting program, the threshold level will be 75,000 tpy until 2013, then it too will be triggered at 50,000 tpy. EPA will not require permits for smaller sources until at least April 30, 2016.

In July 2011, Clean Air Act permitting requirements will expand to cover all new facilities with GHG emissions of at least 100,000 tpy and modifications at existing facilities that would increase GHG emissions by at least 75,000 tpy. These permits must demonstrate the use of best available control technologies to minimize GHG emission increases when facilities are constructed or significantly modified.

Under the new emissions thresholds for GHGs that begin in July 2011, EPA estimates approximately 900 additional permitting actions covering new sources and modifications to existing sources would be subject to review each year. In addition, 550 sources will need to obtain operating permits for the first time because of their GHG emissions. The final rule addresses a group of six GHGs: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

The industry coalition believes that this somewhat scaled back action by EPA lessens the probability that court challenges to the agency on GHG regulation will be successful and that proposed legislation by Senator Lisa Murkowski to curb EPA is also less likely to succeed. The coalition will continue to analyze EPA actions.

The EPA announcement containing more details, including the final rule and fact sheet, is available at www.epa.gov/nsr/actions.html.

June 2010 RENDER | back