EPA Encourages Innovation, Levels Playing Field for Sources Reducing Hazardous Air Emissions

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on October 1 finalized a rule to implement the clear language of Section 112 of the Clean Air Act (CAA) that allows a “major source” of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) to reclassify as an “area source” at any time after acting to limit emissions.

A “major source” is one that “emits or has the potential to emit 10 tons per year (tpy) or more of a single HAP or 25 tpy or more of any combination of HAPs. An “area source” is any stationary source of HAPs that is not “major.” Major sources are subject to maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards whereas area sources may be subject to less onerous generally available control technology (GACT) standards.

The EPA’s reclassification rule will encourage facilities to pursue innovations that permanently reduce their potential to emit HAPs, relieving regulatory requirements intended for much larger emitters. “By removing unnecessary monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting associated with being a major source, this rule will relieve unnecessary compliance and financial burdens from regulated entities and encourage other sources to reduce emissions,” the agency’s press release explains.

The agency’s previous “once-in, always-in” policy, adopted by the Clinton administration in 1995, assumed major sources that reduce their potential to emit (PTE) below the major source thresholds could not be trusted to maintain those reductions unless perpetually regulated as major sources. That punitive policy conflicts with the statute, which defines “major” source solely in terms of PTE and makes no reference to the facility’s status when it first adopted HAP controls.

The EPA estimates the rule will achieve a potential cumulative savings of $16.1 million in the first year and $90.6 million (in 2017 dollars) in following years. With this final rule, the agency estimates it has saved Americans a total of approximately $95 billion in unnecessary regulatory costs during the Trump administration.​