EPA formally announces greenhouse gas permitting schedule

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced  that Clean Air Act permits for stationary sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs) will not be required before January 2011 – or, to put it another way, EPA has put the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions on notice that permitting will commence in January 2011.

Clean Air Act construction and operating permit requirements for the facilities emitting the largest quantities of GHGs will begin when the first national GHG control rule takes effect.  EPA’s target date for implementation of a rule regulating GHG emissions from cars and light trucks is January 2011, when model year 2012 vehicles meeting the standards can first be sold in the United States.  Final greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles are pending.

At this point, potentially regulated sources are still waiting for EPA to formally reveal the threshold quantities of GHG emissions that will trigger the requirement for permit limitations on these emissions.

What do you think – too soon?  Can we expect that regulators and regulated industries will be able to identify, engineer and implement effective control technologies and procedures in timely fashion?  And how will the costs affect not only the permitted industries but also chances for an economic recovery?

More information on the EPA approach and its intended timeline can be found at www.epa.gov/nsr/guidance.html.

EPA brushes State rulemakers aside, will set nutrient standards for Florida waterways

Update:  EPA has extended the comment period on the proposed standards for Florida waters until April 28, 2010.

On January 26, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed water quality standards to protect Florida’s waters. The proposed action would set a series of numeric limits on the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen, also known as “nutrients,” that would be allowed in Florida’s lakes, rivers, streams, springs and canals. Major sources of phosphorus and nitrogen pollution include farm operations, particularly fertilizer use and livestock wastes, as well as stormwater runoff and municipal wastewater treatment.

The EPA action was initiated after the federal agency entered into a 2009 consent decree with the Florida Wildlife Federation to propose limits to this pollution.  The consent decree committed EPA to proposing numeric nutrient standards for lakes and flowing waters in Florida by January 2010, and for estuarine and coastal waters by January 2011.  EPA also agreed to establish final standards by October 2010 for lakes and flowing waters and by October 2011 for estuarine and coastal waters.
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EPA Administrator offers timetable for regulating greenhouse gas emissions

In a February 22 letter to members of the US Senate, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has proposed a rough schedule for phasing in of regulatory control of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.

Ms. Jackson’s letter (which can be read in its entirety here) anticipates that permit requirements for control of greenhouse gas emissions from large stationary sources will appear in 2011, requiring first those facilities already subject to permitting as major sources of priority or hazardous air pollutants to address greenhouse gas emissions in their permit applications.  Other “large” sources (i.e., those emitting more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases per year) will follow, though the Administrator expressed an expectation that the threshold for permitting through 2013 will be substantially higher than the original 25,000 ton level.  Permitting for smaller sources is not anticipated prior to the year 2016, according to Administrator Jackson.

We’ll offer an interpretation of other points raised or answered in Ms. Jackson’s letter in a later post.

What’s EPA been up to?

As January closes, we take a quick look at the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective) of actions taken by the US Environmental Protection Agency in the first month of 2010. Noteworthy actions included:

  • EPA proposes revisions to smog (ozone) standard
  • EPA to issue new standard for nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
  • EPA rejects confidentiality claims for toxic chemicals
  • EPA announces tip line for bad behavior in oil and gas drilling operations

In addition, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson set forth the agency’s priorities for the coming year.

Summaries of these actions follow.  As always, feel free to contact T. Cozzie Consulting for more information.

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Update: Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming

In the aftermath of a brutal cold wave that swept across the US (yes, even to our normally balmy South Florida), we take note of a flurry of interesting news stories concerning global climate change and the likelihood of immediate regulatory action to combat greenhouse gas emissions.  Here is a sampling…

From the Wall Street Journal, various states are pressing the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to delay rulemaking intended to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, fearing that their permitting and regulatory capabilities (and budgets) will be overwhelmed. See online.wsj.com/article/SB126317107565923971.html.

From the Times UK, an allegation that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) used very weak science – or more precisely, mere speculation – in forecasting the imminent disappearance of major Himalayan glaciers.  See www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6991177.ece.

And a recent monograph published in the journal Geophysical Letters Review, www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2009GL040613.shtml, questions whether any statistically significant rise in the airborne fraction of anthropogenetic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions has occurred in the past 150 years.
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Conclusion: Greenhouse gases threaten human health and the environment

Or perhaps more precisely, a foregone conclusion?

As announced on December 7 (UPDATE: and published on December 15 in the Federal Register), the US Environmental Protection Agency administrator has signed two findings on greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act:

  • Endangerment: That current and projected concentrations of the six key greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) – in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations; and
  • Cause or Contribute: That the combined emissions of these well-mixed greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution which threatens public health and welfare.

These determinations are prerequisite for EPA to finalize its greenhouse gas emissions limitations for light-duty vehicles, including passenger automobiles, proposed in September.

Unless you have not been paying attention to the news on climate change issues, you might also know that the endangerment finding also paves the way for regulatory control of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources. In lieu of the uncertain “cap and trade” legislation, EPA can begin to regulate GHGs through the administrative rulemaking process, and has signalled its intent to apply regulatory controls to power plants and other large emitters of GHGs, as noted here on October 13.

For more information on regulatory implications of greenhouse gases and climate change, visit our web page at www.tcozzie.com/guidance/air/ghgs/.

New requirements for storm water from construction sites

On December 1, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule setting effluent limitations for storm water discharges from construction and land development sites. The rule takes effect on February 1, 2010.

The new requirements include a range of erosion and sediment controls and pollution prevention practices that all construction sites, regardless of size, must implement. For construction sites that disturb more than ten (10) acres, the requirements will include monitoring of storm water discharge and compliance with a numeric limitation for turbidity of 280 NTU (nephelometric turbidity units). The monitoring requirements will be phased in over a four-year period: larger construction sites (20 acres or more) will begin monitoring 18 months after the effective date, while other activities disturbing 10 acres or more will need to monitor effluent and demonstrate compliance with the turbidity standard after four years.

For more information, contact T. Cozzie Consulting or visit the US EPA web page at http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/guide/construction/.

Final amendments to SPCC rules announced

On November 10, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has finalized amendments to requirements for facilities subject to the Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule. The amendments are intended to clarify regulatory requirements, tailor requirements to particular industry sectors, and streamline certain requirements for a facility owner or operator subject to the rule. The rule changes were originally proposed in October 2007 and finalized on December 5, 2008, but the agency requested public comments again on February 3, 2009. The rule takes effect on January 14, 2010.

For the most part, the EPA is either taking no action or providing minor technical corrections on the majority of the December 2008 provisions. However, this action modifies the December 2008 rule by removing the provisions to: exclude farms and oil production facilities from the loading/unloading rack requirements; exempt produced water containers at an oil production facility; and provide alternative qualified facilities eligibility criteria for an oil production facility.

Additionally, because of the uncertainty surrounding the final amendments to the December 2008 rule and the delay of the effective date, EPA is expected to propose to extend the compliance date.
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