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Regulatory Drivers

The air pollution control (APC) business is heavily dependent upon EPA regulations that implement different sections of the Clean Air Act (CAA).  The Clean Air Act is a very comprehensive, so it is up to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to interpret Congressional intent, and write reasonable regulations that implement the goals and objectives of the CAA.  Very often these regulations take many years, even decades, before they emerge from the gauntlet of administrative and legal challenges.  An overlooked section of the CAA is key to understanding why these delays occur.  Section 307 of the CAA allows judicial review of final agency action; this is also known as the “citizen suit” provision which allows any individual or group with legal standing to challenge final EPA rules.

The major regulatory drivers for APC are listed below.  These drivers are important primarily as they set out the substance of the regulations such as numerical emissions limits for different pollutants that sources must meet.  However, they are also important because they set out the timelines for compliance.  These timelines, in turn, inform businesses as to how much and when they can invest in R&D and staffing needs to help their customers comply with the regulations.  

 

  • Mercury and Air Toxics Standards / Utility MACT

    http://www.epa.gov/airquality/powerplanttoxics/actions.html

    On December 16, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed a rule to reduce emissions of toxic air pollutants from power plants. Specifically, these mercury and air toxics standards (MATS) for power plants will reduce emissions from new and existing coal- and oil-fired electric utility steam generating units (EGUs).

    MATS will reduce emissions of heavy metals, including mercury (Hg), arsenic (As), chromium (Cr), and nickel (Ni); and acid gases, including hydrochloric acid (HCl) and hydrofluoric acid (HF). These toxic air pollutants, also known as hazardous air pollutants or air toxics, are known or suspected of causing cancer and other serious health effects.

    MATS applies to EGUs larger than 25 megawatts (MW) that burn coal or oil for the purpose of generating electricity for sale and distribution through the national electric grid to the public. EPA estimates that there are approximately 1,400 units affected by this action -- approximately 1,100 existing coal-fired units and 300 oil fired units at about 600 power plants. MATS identifies two subcategories of coal-fired EGUs, four subcategories of oil- fired EGUs, and a subcategory for units that combust gasified coal or solid oil (integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) units). The rule includes emission standards and/or other requirements for each subcategory.

    EPA estimates the health benefits associated with meeting the standards for air toxics are $37 billion to $90 billion in 2016 (2007$). EPA estimates the total national annual cost of this rule will be $9.6 billion.

    Existing sources generally will have up to 4 years if they need it to comply with MATS.
    This includes the 3 years provided to all sources by the Clean Air Act. EPA’s analysis continues to demonstrate that this will be sufficient time for most, if not all, sources to comply. Under the Clean Air Act, state permitting authorities can also grant an additional year as needed for technology installation. EPA expects this option to be broadly available.

  • ICI (Industrial, Commercial, Institutional,) Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology) MACT Rule – Major Sources

  • http://www.epa.gov/airquality/combustion/actions.html

    On December 20, 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a specific set of adjustments to Clean Air Act standards, originally finalized in March 2011, for boilers and certain solid waste incinerators. EPA finalized standards for these sources in March 2011, EPA also announced it was reconsidering the final standards under a Clean Air Act process that allows the agency to seek additional public review and comment. In December 2011, EPA proposed adjustments to the March 2011 standards. EPA made final adjustments to the March 2011 standards, maintaining public health protections through significant reductions in toxic air emissions, including mercury and particle pollution, while increasing the flexibility, consistency and achievability of these standards.

    Using a wide variety of fuels, including coal, oil, natural gas and biomass, boilers power heavy machinery, provide heat for industrial and manufacturing processes and provide power and heat for a number of other uses. The ICI Boiler MACT rule has emission limits for hazardous air pollutants from major sources within the ICI sector. A major source is a facility that emits 10 tons per year (tpy) or more of any single Hazardous Air Pollutant, or 25 tpy or more of total HAPs. The emissions limits are applicable to new and existing units > 10 MMBtu/hour of heat input:

    • Mercury (Hg)
    • Particulate Matter (PM) as a surrogate for non-mercury metals (alternative limits for total selective metals (TSM))
    • Hydrogen Chloride (HCl) as a surrogate for acid gases
    • Carbon Monoxide (CO) as a surrogate for non-dioxin organics)

    There are approximately 14,000 major source boilers and process heaters in the United States. Eighty-eight percent of those burn clean fuels and will be required to conduct periodic tune-ups. Twelve percent will be required to take steps to meet numeric emission standards. The existing major source boilers that are subject to numerical emission limits will have until early 2016 to comply with the standards and, if needed, they may request an additional year.

  • Portland Cement MACT

  • http://www.epa.gov/airquality/cement/actions.html

    On August 6, 2010, EPA issued amendments to two rules to significantly reduce emissions of mercury and other air toxics and particle-forming pollutants from new and existing Portland cement kilns across the United States. The rules also limit emissions of ozone and particle-forming pollutants from new kilns. On December 20, 2012, in response to a federal court decision, petitions for reconsideration and technical information received after the final rules were issued in 2010, the EPA finalized amendments to the agency’s air toxics rules for Portland cement manufacturing.

    The final rule is expected to significantly reduce pollution from Portland cement manufacturing over 2010 levels when fully implemented, cutting emissions of mercury by 93 percent, hydrochloric acid by 96 percent, PM by 91 percent, and total hydrocarbons by 82 percent. Existing kilns must comply with the standards by Sept. 9, 2015, and if needed, may request an additional year.

  • Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR)

  • http://www.epa.gov/crossstaterule/

    On July 6, 2011, EPA finalized a rule, known as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), requires states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that contribute to ozone and/or fine particle pollution in other states. CSAPR requires a total of 28 states to reduce annual SO2 emissions, annual NOX emissions and/or ozone season NOX emissions to assist in attaining the 1997 ozone and fine particle and 2006 fine particle National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). These pollutants react in the atmosphere to form PM2.5 and ground-level ozone and are transported long distances, making it difficult for a number of states to meet the national clean air standards that Congress directed EPA to establish to protect public health.

    CSAPR allows air-quality-assured allowance trading among covered sources, utilizing an allowance market infrastructure based on existing, successful allowance trading programs. The final Cross-State Air Pollution Rule allows sources to trade emissions allowances with other sources within the same program (e.g., ozone season NOX) in the same or different states, while firmly constraining any emissions shifting that may occur by requiring a strict emission ceiling in each state (the budget plus variability limit). It also includes assurance provisions that ensure each state will make the emission reductions necessary to fulfill the "good neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act.

    On August 21, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its ruling vacating CSAPR and remanding it to the agency. On appeal, on April 29, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the D.C. Circuit opinion vacating CSAPR. At this time, CAIR remains in place.

  • Ozone NAAQS

  • http://www.epa.gov/airquality/ozonepollution/

    Troposheric, or ground level ozone, is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). Ozone is likely to reach unhealthy levels on hot sunny days in urban environments. Ozone can also be transported long distances by wind.

    Under the Clean Air Act, EPA has established health and environmentally protective standards for ozone in the air we breathe. Areas are designated as "attainment" (meeting) or "nonattainment" (not meeting) the ground-level ozone standards established in 1997 and in 2008. The current primary health-based standard averaged over 8 hours is 75 parts per billion (ppb).

    Troposheric, or ground level ozone, is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). Ozone is likely to reach unhealthy levels on hot sunny days in urban environments. Ozone can also be transported long distances by wind.

    Under the Clean Air Act, EPA has established health and environmentally protective standards for ozone in the air we breathe. Areas are designated as "attainment" (meeting) or "nonattainment" (not meeting) the ground-level ozone standards established in 1997 and in 2008. The current primary health-based standard averaged over 8 hours is 75 parts per billion (ppb).

    EPA is on track to meet a court-ordered December 2014 deadline to revise the ozone NAAQS per its statutory duty to look at revising each NAAQS every five years.  EPA staff and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) have endorsed setting the new ozone standard between 60-70 ppb.  A final ozone NAAQS is expected by October 1, 2015.   

     

  • PM NAAQS

  • http://www.epa.gov/airquality/particlepollution/

    "Particulate matter," also known as particle pollution or PM, is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. Particle pollution is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles. The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller are the particles that generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects. "Fine particles," such as those found in smoke and haze, are 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller. These particles can be directly emitted from sources such as forest fires, or they can form when gases emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles react in the air.

    In 1997, EPA established annual and 24-hour NAAQS for PM2.5 for the first time. In 2006, EPA revised the 24-hour NAAQS for PM2.5. On December 14, 2012, EPA strengthened the annual health NAAQS for fine particles (PM2.5) to 12.0 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) and retained the 24-hour fine particle standard of 35 µg/m3. Once EPA sets a new air quality standard, or revises an existing standard, the agency designates areas as meeting the standards (attainment areas), not meeting them (nonattainment areas), or there is not enough data to make a determination (unclassifiable). EPA will make final designations by December 2014; those designations would likely become effective in early 2015 (60 days after the designations are published in the Federal Register). States with nonattainment areas must submit attainment plans, outlining how states or tribes will reduce pollution to meet the standards, and are due to EPA three years after designations are final. State plans can include emission reductions from federal rules and programs, along with local measures to demonstrate that an area will meet the standards.

  • SO2 NAAQS

  • http://www.epa.gov/airquality/sulfurdioxide/

    Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is one of a group of highly reactive gasses known as "oxides of sulfur.” The largest sources of SO2 emissions are from fossil fuel combustion at power plants (73%) and other industrial facilities (20%). Smaller sources of SO2 emissions include industrial processes such as extracting metal from ore, and the burning of high sulfur containing fuels by locomotives, large ships, and non-road equipment. SO2 is linked with a number of adverse effects on the respiratory system.

    EPA first set standards for SO2 in 1971. EPA set a 24-hour primary standard at 140 ppb and an annual average standard at 30 ppb (to protect health). EPA also set a 3-hour average secondary standard at 500 ppb (to protect the public welfare). In 1996, EPA reviewed the SO2 NAAQS and chose not to revise the standards. In 2010, EPA revised the primary SO2 NAAQS by establishing a new 1-hour standard at a level of 75 parts per billion (ppb). EPA revoked the two existing primary standards because they would not provide additional public health protection given a 1-hour standard at 75 ppb. States are required to submit SIPs within 18 months of the effective date of final designations, and must attain the NAAQS as expeditiously as practicable up to five years following the effective designation date.

  • NO2 NAAQS

  • http://www.epa.gov/airquality/nitrogenoxides/actions.html

    Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is one of a group of highly reactive gasses known as "oxides of nitrogen," or "nitrogen oxides (NOx)." EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard uses NO2 as the indicator for the larger group of nitrogen oxides. NO2 forms quickly from emissions from cars, trucks and buses, power plants, and off-road equipment. In addition to contributing to the formation of ground-level ozone, and fine particle pollution, NO2 is linked with a number of adverse effects on the respiratory system.

    EPA first set standards for NO2 in 1971, setting both a primary standard (to protect health) and a secondary standard (to protect the public welfare) at 0.053 parts per million (53 ppb), averaged annually. The Agency reviewed the standards twice since that time, but chose not to revise the annual standards at the conclusion of each review. In January 2010, EPA established an additional primary standard at 100 ppb, averaged over one hour.

    On January 22, 2010, EPA strengthened the health-based standard for NO2 by setting a new 1-hour standard of 100 parts per billion (ppb) and determined that no area in the country is violating the 2010 national air quality standards for NO2. EPA and State and Tribal agencies are currently working to establish an expanded network of NO2 monitors. Once three years of air quality data have been collected from the expanded network EPA will be better able to determine NO2 air quality in additional locations.

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