EPA to Relax MACT Standards for Sources that Reduce Hazardous Air Emissions

July 01, 2019
On June 25, EPA proposed a rule that allows a major source of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) to reclassify as an area source after acting to limit emissions to below the levels that define major sources. This proposal would relieve reclassified facilities from the requirement to maintain maximum achievable control technology (MACT) throughout the lifetime of their operation, known as “once-in-always-in.” 
“‘Once in, always in’ policies discourage facilities from deploying the latest pollution control technologies or modernizing in ways that increase efficiency and reduce emissions,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today’s proposal would remove a major regulatory burden and incentivize investments in technologies that improve air quality and public health.”
“This action is based on a clear reading of the statute that is in line with EPA’s guidance for other provisions of the Clean Air Act,” said Bill Wehrum, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “It will reduce regulatory burden for industries and the states while continuing to ensure stringent and effective controls on hazardous air pollutants.” Following publication of the proposed rule, Mr. Wehrum announced his resignation.
This action would implement the current EPA’s reading of the Clean Air Act described in a January 2018 guidance memo withdrawing the “once in, always in” policy. Established in 1995, the “once in, always in” policy determined that any facility subject to major source standards would always remain subject to those standards—even if production processes changed or controls were implemented that eliminated or permanently reduced that facility’s potential to emit hazardous air pollutants. States, state organizations, and industries frequently noted that the “once in, always in” policy discouraged voluntary pollution abatement and prevention efforts and technological innovations that would reduce hazardous air pollution emissions. EPA’s January 2018 memo found EPA had no authority under the Clean Air Act to limit when a facility may be determined to be an area source and that facilities may be reclassified as area sources once their potential to emit hazardous air pollutants falls below the levels that define major sources.
 According to a 2017 EPA fact sheet, the air toxics MACT program with the “once in, always in” policy had resulted in the elimination of 1.7 million tons of hazardous air pollution. The Agency estimated that this proposal would result in cost savings when compared to the agency’s previous “once in, always in” policy. Of the estimated 7,920 sources subject to national emissions standards as a major source, EPA estimates nearly half could become area sources, saving $168.9 million in the first year and $163 million to $183 million annually (in 2014 dollars) in the following years.
it appears Assistant Administrator Wehrum had one more public health rollback to release on his way out the door,” said Senator Carper. (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. “Prior to Mr. Wehrum’s arrival at EPA, the ‘once-in, always in’ interpretation of the Clean Air Act had been a crucial tool in limiting air toxic pollution from our nation’s biggest polluters in communities across the country for almost a quarter century. If finalized, this proposal would solidify the Trump Administration’s warped interpretation of the Clean Air Act and allow major air toxic polluters to turn off their pollution control technology. This action would lead to increased levels of arsenic, lead, mercury and other dangerous chemicals in the air we breathe.
EPA has requested comment on all aspects of this proposal, including:
  • EPA’s position that the proposed approach is the proper reading of Clean Air Act section 112(a) and is consistent with the act’s clear language and structure.
  • Requirements for establishing effective HAP emissions limits.
  • Allowing limitations issued by the state/local/tribal air pollution control agencies to be recognized as effective provided they are legally and practically enforceable.
  • Safeguards that may be appropriate to protect against emissions increases.
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Sustainability-Linked Loans Provide Opportunities for Chemical Firms
Spurred by calculations showing that companies with a lower environmental impact are less of a financial risk, banks are beginning to offer cheaper loans if chemical firms hit agreed-upon levels of environmental performance. In this way, companies and banks can obtain a mutually beneficial relationship through green finance, according to an article in Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.
Companies such as Stora Enso, Indorama Ventures, DSM and Solvay became some of the first to take sustainability-linked loans, Senior Editor Alex Scott writes. Kemira, a specialty chemical firm, agreed to meet three criteria to obtain a sustainability-linked loan: reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020, ensure at least half its revenue is from products that improve customer resource-use efficiency and maintain its gold-standard sustainability rating from the environmental assessment firm EcoVadis. This sustainability rating determined the initial loan interest rate, which will rise if the firm fails to meet environmental targets.
Ecoloans have mostly been adopted by a handful of European companies, but the approach could easily be used in Asia, especially in China and Southeast Asia, where sustainability in the supply chain is critical. In general, the financial sector is becoming more interested in environmental, social, government and sustainability issues, which may eventually lead some banks to deny loans to firms with poor environmental track records. This is only the beginning of chemical firms linking loans to environmental sustainability, experts say.
Plant Manager Sentenced for Polluting a Tributary of the Chattahoochee
Carlos Conde has been sentenced for violating the Clean Water Act by instructing employees at the Apollo Industries chemical processing plant in Smyrna, Georgia, to wash carburetor fluid into a tributary of the Chattahoochee River.
“We must ensure that citizens can continue to enjoy the beautiful natural resources we have here in Georgia like the Chattahoochee,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Protecting those resources, and the environment, is part of our mission.  We take this responsibility seriously, and we will prosecute those who have no respect for the laws that preserve them for all to use and enjoy.”
“The defendant in this case intentionally contaminated a tributary of the Chattahoochee River, killing fish and damaging the environment,” said Special Agent in Charge Andy Castro of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division.  “This sentencing demonstrates that EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to protecting our natural resources and the communities that rely upon them.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: on the evening of August 12, 2016, a batching tank at the Apollo Industries chemical mixing facility in Smyrna, Georgia, began leaking a carburetor cleaner containing naphthalene, a toxic and hazardous chemical.  The following morning, two workers discovered the spill and called Carlos Conde, the plant manager.
Conde arrived at the plant and instructed the employees to wash the chemical away with water from multiple hoses.  The chemical was washed into a tributary of Nickajack Creek and the Chattahoochee River.  Conde then twice denied his role in interviews with a Special Agent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  The carburetor cleaner turned the water milky white and opaque and killed the wildlife in the creek, including fish and frogs.
Carlos Conde, 37, of Smyrna, Georgia, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash, Jr., to 12 months’ probation with the first four months to be served as home detention, a $2000 fine, and a $100 special assessment.  Conde was convicted on these charges on January 24, 2019, after he pleaded guilty.
World Oil Companies Cited for Hazardous Waste Violations at Southern California Facilities
EPA announced a settlement with DeMenno-Kerdoon and D/K Environmental for improperly managing hazardous waste at the World Oil Recycling facility in Compton, California, and the World Oil Terminals in Vernon, California. Under the agreement, the companies will spend $167,967 on an environmental project to reduce air pollution in local classrooms and pay a $39,092 penalty.
“EPA will continue to work with these companies to ensure they comply with hazardous waste requirements and can thereby protect surrounding communities,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “We are pleased they will support our continuing investment in bringing air filters to local classrooms.”
The Compton facility stores and treats used oil, waste oil, oily water, and used anti-freeze and ships hazardous waste to off-site disposal facilities. The Vernon facility also stores and transfers hazardous waste. EPA’s 2017 inspections identified violations of federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations. RCRA rules require the safe management of hazardous waste to protect public health and the environment and to prevent the need for costly and extensive cleanups.
Violations identified during the inspections included:
  • Failure to make a hazardous waste determination for certain solid waste generated on-site at both facilities.
  • Failure to regularly test waste streams to determine whether wasted shipped off-site met land disposal restrictions standards.
In addition to paying a penalty, the companies will spend $167,967 on the installation of an air filtration system to improve indoor air quality in classrooms in a nearby school or schools. The project will also provide three years of replacement air filters, which are expected to remove more than 90% of ultra-fine particulate matter and black carbon from indoor air.
Dow Silicones Corp Cited for Air Violations
The Department of Justice and the EPA announced a settlement with Dow Silicones Corporation (DSC), resolving alleged environmental violations at the company’s chemical manufacturing facility in Midland, Michigan, including alleged violations of the Clean Air Act; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; the Clean Water Act; the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act; and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. The alleged violations relate to excess emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), unauthorized discharges of pollutants, inadequate management of hazardous waste, and untimely reporting of hazardous substance releases.
The consent decree requires DSC to undertake extensive measures that should result in estimated annual emission reductions of 218 tons of HAPs and 43.53 tons of VOCs, as well as estimated annual pollutant reductions of three tons of nitrogen and zinc. In addition, DSC will spend approximately $1.6 million on supplemental environmental projects, including lead abatement projects to protect children from lead-based paint hazards in or near Midland; donation of air monitoring equipment to local responders; and more frequent monitoring and improved repair and replacement procedures for equipment that contains HAPs. DSC will also be required to pay a penalty of $4.55 million.
“This settlement reflects our continued commitment to hold people accountable for violating the nation’s environmental laws,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Brightbill of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Justice Department is pleased to have worked with our partners at EPA to secure this result, which means improved air and water quality for the people and communities of eastern Michigan.”
“Michigan companies that manufacture, process, and handle dangerous chemicals and substances have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that their activities do not pollute our air, our waters, or our ground,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan. “The United States appreciates the fact that, under this settlement, Dow Silicones Corporation recognizes its responsibilities to both honor federal law and protect the environment.”
“Today’s settlement is one example of how EPA is committed to reducing exposure to hazardous air pollutants and other contaminants in communities across the country,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp.
The primary violations alleged in the United States’ complaint consist of DSC’s failure to monitor and repair VOC leaks from thousands of components and properly operate the facility’s thermal oxidizer, which is the facility’s primary HAPs control device, thereby resulting in excess emissions of HAPs; the failure to identify and characterize hazardous waste streams; and the failure to properly manage and monitor stormwater at the facility. Excess emissions of HAPs increase the possibility of exposure to pollutants that are known or expected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, as well as adverse environmental conditions. These health effects can include damage to the immune system, as well as neurological, reproductive (e.g., reduced fertility), developmental, respiratory, and other health problems. Additionally, the failure to properly manage and monitor stormwater may have led to the discharge of pollutants, such as hydrochloric acid, benzene, arsenic and heavy metals, harmful to aquatic species in the Lingle Drain and the Tittabawassee River.
The settlement also requires DSC to: implement a revised benzene sampling plan, a comprehensive leak detection and repair program for equipment, and a compliance plan to remedy all Clean Air Act violations identified through a voluntary audit performed by DSC; implement specified measures to control vent streams that contain HAPs and improve the operation of air pollution control equipment; identify and characterize all hazardous waste streams; implement adequate secondary containment for tanks; evaluate and improve the management and monitoring of stormwater at the facility and update the facility’s Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan; and implement a revised hazardous substance release reporting policy and training procedures.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.
Dyno Nobel Cited for EPCRA and CAA Violations
Dyno Nobel, Inc., in St. Helens, Oregon was cited for release reporting violations of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) in connection with two releases of anhydrous ammonia.  The company failed to accurately report annual point source releases in its Toxic Release Inventory filings and violated multiple provisions of the Clean Air Act's Risk Management Program requirements.
Under a proposed Consent Decree, Dyno Nobel has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $492,000, to file corrected Toxic Release Inventory reports, to comply with applicable reporting requirements and all applicable Risk Management Program requirements, retain a third- party auditor to audit its compliance with the foregoing requirements, and perform a Supplemental Environmental Project where Dyno will pay at least $939,852
To purchase specified emergency response equipment for local emergency response organizations.
Coleman Oil Fined for Oil Spill to Columbia River in Wenatchee
Lewiston, Idaho-based Coleman Oil has agreed to settle a $189,000 fine for spilling approximately 3,840 gallons of biodiesel into the Columbia River from its Wenatchee bulk oil plant in 2017.
Under the terms of the settlement with the Washington Department of Ecology, the penalty will be reduced to $170,000, if the company makes a cash payment of $65,000 to be used for habitat restoration efforts. To satisfy the remaining $105,000, Coleman Oil, within two years, must complete facility upgrades at its operations in Pateros and Dayton and implement all-staff training. The company must also incur no spills of 25 gallons or more for five years.
An investigation found the fuel had leaked for three months from a corroded underground pipe to soil and groundwater and then seeped into the Columbia River. Since that time, the company has stopped the spill, removed the contamination, and decommissioned the facility. There were no observable impacts to wildlife from the spill.
The facility upgrades include adding leak-detection equipment and upgrading to double-walled line systems. The training must cover job duties at their 18 facilities required by U.S. Environmental Protection spill prevention plans and information about the Clean Water Act.
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