Are you a manufacturer or other producer in or around Chicago, Dallas, Houston, San Diego Nevada County (CA), New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut? You may face new requirements in the coming years pertaining to your emissions levels.

Following a November announcement by the EPA, these areas have failed to attain the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards by the required date for “Moderate” nonattainment status. What does this mean and how could it affect your business? We explore this in detail below.

Background: National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

Under the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and modifies the levels allowable as they seek to lower emissions across the United States. The 1990 Amendments gave more power to the EPA to make modifications to NAAQS, define nonattainment areas, and determine requirements for these areas based on the severity of nonattainment.

NAAQS for “Criteria” Pollutants

Primarily, the EPA sets NAAQS for the “criteria” pollutants—Carbon Monoxide, Lead, Nitrogen Dioxide, Particulate Matter, Sulfur Dioxide, and Ozone, noting primary and secondary measures for each pollutant, levels, averaging time, and form of measurement.

Modifications to NAAQS and Definitions of Nonattainment Areas

In the Act, the EPA was authorized to make changes to NAAQS and was required by law to review the scientific data upon which the standards are based every five years, and revise the standards, if necessary. From here, the EPA determines nonattainment areas—areas exceeding NAAQS or contributing to elevated NAAQS in nearby areas.

If an area receives the nonattainment label, the EPA classifies specific areas exceeding regulations based on severity—marginal, moderate, serious, severe and extreme—and sets requirements for each area based on this classification.

We discussed the 1990 Act in detail here, but would today like to turn our attention to one specific pollutant—Ozone—and seven areas that may be at risk for being reclassified from Moderate to Serious.

Ground-Level Ozone: A Criteria Pollutant and a Byproduct of VOCs

Ground-Level Ozone happens when volatile organic compounds are released into the environment, react with sources of oxygen molecules like NOx in sunlight. Breathing air containing ozone can reduce lung function and increase respiratory symptoms, thereby aggravating asthma or other respiratory conditions.

NAAQS Changes and Nonattainment Dates for Ozone

Since the 1990 Act was passed, the EPA has lowered the NAAQS for Ozone three times. In 1997, the agency introduced the 8-hour averaging time, reducing attainment levels to 0.08 PPM. From here, the agency lowered the acceptable levels of Ozone to the current level of 0.075 ppm in 2008. After setting the 2008 NAAQS, the EPA in turn set state implementation plan dates, attainment dates and attainment plan due dates for each area following this timeline.

Seven Areas Fail to Maintain Moderate Status Ozone NAAQS

On November 14, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency announced in Federal Register Vol. 83, No. 220 their “Determinations of Attainment by the Attainment Date, Extensions of the Attainment Date, and Reclassification of Several Areas Classified as Moderate for the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards.”

In the proposed rule, the EPA announced that “seven areas failed to attain the standards by the attainment date and will be reclassified by operation of law to ‘‘Serious’’ upon the effective date of the final reclassification notice.” The areas are as follows:

  • Chicago-Naperville, Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin;
  • Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas;
  • Greater Connecticut, Connecticut;
  • Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, Texas;
  • Nevada County (Western part), California;
  • New York-North New Jersey-Long Island, Connecticut-New York-New Jersey;
  • San Diego County, California

While the changes are still “proposed” and are currently being discussed, a change from moderate to serious could have long-lasting effects on manufacturers.

What Does This Mean?

In simple terms, when an area ‘moves up’ in nonattainment status, states need to submit new state implementation plans (SIPs). These plans will be more strict than prior SIPs and such nonattainment areas will have new reporting dates.

New State Implementation Plans Required

Per Federal Register,

“[…]the responsible state air agencies must submit State Implementation Plan (SIP) revisions required to satisfy the statutory and regulatory requirements for Serious areas for the 2008 ozone NAAQS. The EPA is proposing deadlines for submittal of those SIP revisions and implementation of the related control requirements. This proposed action is necessary to fulfill the EPA’s statutory obligation to determine whether ozone nonattainment areas attained the NAAQS by the attainment date, and, within 6 months of the attainment date, publish a notice in the Federal Register identifying each area that is determined as having failed to attain and identifying the reclassification.”

If the details are finalized, states will have 12 months after the final reclassification notice to submit new SIPs.

Stricter SIPs for Serious Nonattainment Areas

The state submittal requirements for attainment plans, in general, are provided under CAA section 172(c); the SIP requirements that apply to Serious areas for the 2008 ozone NAAQS are listed under CAA section 182(c) and include:

  • Enhanced monitoring;
  • Attainment demonstration and reasonable further progress (RFP) plan;
  • An enhanced vehicle inspection and maintenance program, if applicable;
  • Clean-fuel vehicle programs and transportation control;
  • Nonattainment New Source Review program revisions;
  • Contingency measures.

States must also provide an analysis of—and adopt all—RACM, including RACT needed for purposes of meeting RFP or timely attaining the NAAQS.

Nonattainment New Source Review Major Source Threshold Changes

Under the new SIPs, states will need to conform to higher standards for nonattainment new source review, defined by the EPA as:

“Nonattainment NSR applies to new major sources or major modifications at existing sources for pollutants where the area the source is located is not in attainment with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Nonattainment NSR requirements are customized for the nonattainment area. All nonattainment NSR programs have to require

(1) the installation of the lowest achievable emission rate (LAER),

(2) emission offsets, and

(3) opportunity for public involvement.”

In short, any new sources or modifications will need to adhere to new standards, with major sources seeing a threshold of 50 tons per year of NOx or VOCs.

Protecting Your Firm: Pollution Control and VOC Abatement

With the change in nonattainment area status happening in some of the largest, most populous areas, one can only expect the SIPs to be extremely strict for new source standards. This, paired with enhanced monitoring requirements set by the EPA in nonattainment areas puts a target on manufacturers, and a call to action for them as well. Tens of thousands of manufacturers will be impacted by this, and if you are in one of these areas, you may want to “beat the rush.”

Whether you are looking to build, expand, or renovate, the new SIPs will affect the way you do business. Alternatively, as continue to operate, your local EPA department will be on the lookout for enforcement opportunities in these areas, so it pays to take steps to protect yourself early.

The CMM Group has designed, engineered, and installed air pollution control solutions that destroy VOCs and ensure compliance when properly maintained. We invite you to download our free guide to VOC abatement and contact us for a consultation.

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