Tuesday, March 30, 2010

EPA proposes to revoke Bush-era polluter loophole

We applaud EPA’s decision to propose closing this polluter loophole. It was one of the last-minute Bush administration gifts to polluters. It’s a loophole that needs to be closed.


EPA Proposes to Revoke New Source Review Final Rule
Release date: 03/30/2010

Contact Information: Cathy Milbourn milbourn.cathy@epa.gov 202-564-7849 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to revoke a January 2009 rule that changed the way existing industrial facilities combine upcoming construction projects to determine if Clean Air Act permits are needed.

EPA is concerned that the changes made last year to its “aggregation policy” would make the agency’s New Source Review permitting program less effective, allowing facilities to increase emissions that may impact air quality without a thorough review.

The new proposal responds to a petition to reconsider the 2009 rule. The 2009 rule directed facilities and permitting authorities to combine emissions from construction projects only when the changes are “substantially related,” such as having more in common than the timing of construction.

EPA is proposing to go back to its original policy, which required combining projects based on a broader range of factors. This would ensure that potential emissions increases that could harm air quality do not avoid review and the installation of state-of-the-art pollution controls.

New Source Review is a pre-construction permitting program to ensure air quality is maintained when factories, industrial boilers and power plants are built or modified. The program ensures that state-of-the art emission control technology is installed at new plants or existing plants that are undergoing a major modification.

EPA also is proposing to extend the effective date of the 2009 aggregation rule for an additional six months, to give the agency time to complete the reconsideration.
EPA will take comment on the proposal rule for 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
More information: http://www.epa.gov/nsr/actions.html

Friday, March 12, 2010

EPA scientists call for tougher soot standards

from Greenwire:

AIR POLLUTION: EPA scientists recommend tougher soot standards (03/12/2010)
Robin Bravender, E&E reporter
The latest science supports substantially tightening U.S. EPA's air quality standards for soot in order to safeguard public health and the environment, according to a draft report from agency scientists.

Current evidence "calls into question whether the current suite" of health-based standards for fine particulate matter, or soot, "protects public health with an adequate margin of safety from effects associated with long- and short-term exposures," says the draft report issued this month.

EPA last revised its soot standard in 2006 under the George W. Bush administration, when the agency tightened the allowable concentrations of fine particulate matter from 65 micrograms per cubic meter to 35 micrograms when measured over a 24-hour period. EPA also opted to retain the annual soot standard at 15 micrograms per cubic meter, even though EPA's staff and scientific advisers had recommended a standard between 13 and 14 micrograms. EPA set an identical welfare-based standard at 15 micrograms...

In the draft report, the EPA staff suggests that the agency consider setting the annual and 24-hour standards so that the annual standard would provide long-term protection against long- and short-term exposures in conjunction with a tighter 24-hour standard to protect against high peak concentrations.

The report suggests two ranges to provide such protections that involve tightening the annual standard. One would tighten the annual standard to between 12 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter while either retaining or revising the 24-hour standard in a range of 30 to 35 micrograms.

The second scenario would involve tightening the annual standard to between 10 and 11 micrograms per cubic meter, coupled with lowering the 24-hour standard within a range of 25 to 30 micrograms.

EPA staff also reached the preliminary conclusion that the available data calls into question the adequacy of the agency's current welfare-based standards that aim in part to protect visibility. The draft assessment urges EPA to consider alternative standards to provide further protection, particularly in urban areas.

Frank O'Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, welcomed the draft report. "The agency's own experts argue that the science calls for much stricter limits on the public's annual exposure to deadly particle soot," O'Donnell said. "This could have big implications for some of the major sources of fine particle soot, especially coal burning and diesel engines."

O'Donnell added that the EPA staff recommendations are noteworthy because there have been preliminary indications that the Obama EPA is inclined to adopt its scientific advisers' recommendations. "They may not go to the lowest end of it, but they want to respect what the science advisers are putting forward," he said.