Which federal rules were changed?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued their latest package of air emissions rules for organic chemical manufacturers and petroleum refiners with chemical production units. The amendments are designed to reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) beyond controls and monitoring programs already in place through existing rules and monitor the ambient concentrations of certain HAPs at the facility fenceline.

This group of rules is for major sources of HAP and certain types of emission sources that have been constructed or modified. The rule package includes 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 63, Subparts F, G, H and I, collectively known as the Hazardous Organic NESHAP, the “HON”, 40 CFR 63 Subparts U & W, Polymer and Resin Groups I and II and 40 CFR 60, Subparts VV, VVa, VVb, NNN, NNNa, RRR, RRRa, NSPS for the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturing Industry or “SOCMI”. See here for the EPA’s list of facilities potentially affected by the HON/SOCMI rules package.

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The HON/SOCMI rule package will have new capex and opex impacts on affected sources and may present risks associated with new compliance programs, particularly fenceline monitoring requirements. 

What are the major implications of the final rules, and what actions should affected sources consider implementing now?

The HON/SOCMI package brings affected sources up to the enhanced control and monitoring levels seen in other recent rulemakings for the refinery, ethylene and miscellaneous organic manufacturing sectors, including the elimination of startup, shutdown, malfunction and force majeure allowances, and prohibiting the bypass of control devices. While the EPA has made some changes between the proposed and final rules, the rule package still results in numerous monitoring and work practice requirements that will take significant investments of capex for controls and opex for additional labor resources.

Affected facilities should work to immediately evaluate the implications of the final rule package and plan for these costs in their annual capex, operations and environmental budgets.

The new rule package includes extensive new requirements relating to the ambient monitoring and subsequent reporting of certain HAP concentrations at the fenceline of affected facilities. Chemical companies should be aware that these fenceline monitoring data reports will be visible in the public domain and vulnerable to scrutiny. In addition to potentially triggering costs to mitigate fenceline impacts, in an era of social and environmental justice concerns the fenceline monitoring requirement may present a risk to public perception and increased scrutiny from intervenors on future plant improvements or expansions. While the rules package does provide 2 years to commence fenceline monitoring, this time will be needed to properly pilot the monitoring program, prepare for compliance and get a head start on risk mitigation.

Affected facilities should consider immediately conducting pilot testing of fenceline monitoring programs — to understand where hotspots are to better plan for and mitigate risks prior to these requirements becoming effective (~2 years after the final rule package is published in the Federal Register). The EPA has indicated that in some cases meeting the regulatory emission controls for particular affected source or sources may not be enough to meet their expectations of what is protective of the public at the fenceline.

Changes from the proposed rule that may be problematic include a 90-day monitoring deadline for existing neoprene production sources and setting two chloroprene fenceline monitoring action levels, depending on whether one has HON or Subpart U affected sources.

How ERM can help?
ERM’s air quality subject matter experts are ready to help your business prepare for the implementation of these new rules and to get ahead of the upcoming challenges and additional costs that future compliance will bring to your affected operations. The first set of preparations that sources can undertake is a gap analysis evaluation of the new rules package, development of a compliance strategy and eventual revisions to your regulatory compliance programs. This involves not only an accounting for the various affected components at your facility (pressure relief valves, tank fittings, etc.) but also an assessment of current monitoring and operating procedures (flare management, continuous parameter monitoring systems and more) that may need to be modified for future compliance. This assessment will allow your business to understand and prepare for future opex costs. Every affected facility will have its own unique challenges and solutions to future compliance, so these issues are critical for business leaders to understand as soon as possible.

The second critical step affected facilities should consider is a pilot fenceline monitoring program. As described in the details above, the data collected from these fenceline monitoring programs will be publicly available and greatly increase risks associated with public participation in future permitting. It will also be crucial to capex and opex planning at your facility to determine the scale and scope of the fenceline monitoring program as soon as possible, and use the ~2 year window before compliance monitoring begins to uncover and mitigate any potential fenceline hotspots.

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