EPA Proposal Would Maintain Thresholds in Tailoring Rule for Greenhouse Gas Permits

By Andrew Childers  

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Environmental Protection Agency will not lower the existing thresholds in its tailoring rule for stationary emissions sources to obtain greenhouse gas permits, the agency said in a proposed rule released Feb. 27.

In addition, EPA has proposed other revisions to the permitting program that would provide affected industries with flexibility in how they comply with greenhouse gas emissions caps. The revisions would allow facilities to consider their aggregate emissions when determining compliance with the permitting requirements and would create a streamlined permitting program at emissions levels below the prevention of significant deterioration threshold.

As part of the third step of its tailoring rule issued in June 2010, EPA proposed retaining greenhouse gas emissions thresholds that it previously set for Title V and prevention of significant deterioration permitting. Currently, new sources that emit 100,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide-equivalent and existing sources that make modifications that increase their emissions by 75,000 tons per year must obtain the permits.

The proposed rule, which would revise 40 C.F.R. Parts 51, 52, 70, and 71, will be published in the Federal Register.

EPA Considered Lower Thresholds

EPA had considered a permitting threshold as low as 50,000 tons per year of greenhouse gas equivalent. However, after consulting with states and EPA's regional offices, the agency choose to retain the previously set permitting thresholds.

As of Dec. 1, EPA and state permitting authorities had issued only 18 prevention of significant deterioration permits for greenhouse gases, the agency said. Another 50 applications are pending.

Industry representatives and state regulators told Bloomberg BNA in November that the transition to including greenhouse gas emissions to the prevention of significant deterioration permitting process has largely been a smooth one. (See related story; 234 WCCR, 12/2/11.)

Despite the low number of permits issued to date, states such as Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Utah said they still need to improve their resources and capacity to issue the greenhouse gas permits for all the various sources covered. State and regional permitting authorities anticipate that permitting applications will continue to increase.

“They generally do not believe that 2011 has been representative of the permitting burdens that they expect will ultimately occur under the current tailoring rule,” EPA said.

Tailoring Rule Limits Permitting

When EPA issued the tailoring rule in 2010, the agency limited permitting requirements to those stationary sources with the greatest emissions (75 Fed. Reg. 31,514). (See related story; 93 WCCR, 5/13/10.)

As part of the rule, EPA committed to a three-step permitting process, with the proposed third step to begin June 30, 2013.

The first phase began Jan. 2, 2011, and required only those emissions sources already subject to prevention of significant deterioration or Title V permitting to obtain permits for their greenhouse gas emissions. Beginning July 1, 2011, the second phase applied permitting requirements to stationary sources with greenhouse gas emissions of at least 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent annually or that made modifications increasing their emissions by at least 75,000 tons per year.

EPA Proposes More Flexibility

In its third step, EPA is proposing two changes to streamline the permitting program and provide regulated industries with flexibility.

The first would set a plantwide applicability limit for greenhouse gases that would be applied to the entire source rather than specific emissions points. This would allow facilities to make needed changes without triggering new permitting requirements, provided emissions levels do not exceed that plantwide limit.

The second revision would allow EPA to issue synthetic minor permits for greenhouse gases in areas subject to a greenhouse gas PSD federal implementation plan. EPA is the greenhouse gas PSD authority for a number of states, including Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon, Texas, Wyoming, and parts of Arizona.

The synthetic permits would include emissions limits below the PSD threshold. However, EPA said the synthetic permits would be less complicated to obtain than the PSD permit.

The White House Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the proposed third-step rule Feb. 24 after receiving the rule Feb. 6. (See related story; 25 WCCR, 2/7/12.)

EPA will hold a public hearing on the proposed rule March 20 at the DoubleTree Hotel—Crystal City, 300 Army Navy Drive, Arlington, Virginia 22202.

EPA will accept comments on the proposed rule until April 20. Comment can be made at http://www.regulations.gov and should reference docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0517.

For More Information

For more information, contact Michael Brooks in EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards at (919) 541-3539 or brooks.michaels@epa.gov.

To register to speak at the public hearing, contact Pamela Long in EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards at (919) 541-0641 or long.pam@epa.gov.