Regulatory Puzzle


The Clean Air Act (CAA) establishes requirements for airborne emissions from a variety of sources, including stacks, processing tanks, and even "fugitive" emissions from leaks and other sources.  EPA, state, and regional air quality agencies are all likely to be involved in CAA implementation.

For stationary sources like chemical plants, the CAA covers 3 main types of pollutants:

  • Criteria air pollutants that affect general air quality – e.g., SO2, particulates, ozone
  • New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) pollutants – e.g., H2S, Fluorides
  • Air Toxics (also called Hazardous Air Pollutants or HAPs) – e.g., VOCs and other toxics

Under the CAA, there are 7 major requirements to plan for:

  1. PSD or nonattainment permits
  2. New Source Performance Standards (NSPS)
  3. NESHAPs standards for Air Toxics
  4. Accidental release and risk management
  5. Operating permit requirements
  6. Reduction in use of ozone depleting substances
  7. Consumer products rule (Section 183(e))

In addition, there is an 8th possible requirement:
State-specific requirements.

The CAA may also be used to address climate change.

1. PSD or nonattainment permits

Law: CAA Title I
Regulation: 40 CFR 52.21 and 40 CFR 51.165

Both PSD (prevention of significant deterioration) permits and nonattainment permits cover the criteria pollutants under the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS).   PSD permits are potentially needed for major new sources or major modifications of existing sources in attainment areas (i.e., areas that are meeting the NAAQS). Nonattainment permits are potentially needed for new and modified sources of air pollutants which emit a pollutant for which the region is not meeting the relevant NAAQS. These permits will specify performance and other requirements.

In addition to PSD or nonattainment permits, other requirements may be applicable to meet state-level ambient air quality standards, although these will be folded into the operating permit (discussed below).

2. New Source Performance Standards (NSPS)

Law: CAA Title I, Section 111
Regulation: 40 CFR Part 60

EPA has issued NSPS for over 70 source categories. These source-based standards apply to new and modified facilities. Example source categories subject to NSPS are incinerators, sulfuric acid plants, petroleum refineries, lead smelters, and equipment leaks of VOCs in the synthetic organic chemicals manufacturing industry. NSPS include performance and reporting requirements, including such things as continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS). The requirements are incorporated into a facility’s operating permit.

3. NESHAPs standards for Air Toxics

Law: CAA Title III, Section 112
Regulation: 40 CFR Parts 61 and 63

NESHAPs - or the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants - provides regulation for a list of 189 Air Toxics. EPA has issued a list of source categories and subcategories that will be regulated under the NESHAPs program. These regulations include technology-based standards (i.e., maximum achievable control technology or MACT standards), work practice standards, and residual risk-based standards.

4. Accidental release and risk management

Law: CAA Section 112(r), EPCRA
Regulation: 40 CFR 68.30

The CAA addresses accidental airborne releases of a list of 139 "extremely hazardous substances" that potentially can have serious adverse effects to human health or the environment. (This list is somewhat different than the list of 189 Air Toxics.)  The CAA requirements are intended to compliment the emergency planning requirements of EPCRA. Facilities with more than a threshold quantity of these substances have a general duty to prevent their accidental release and to minimize the consequences of any such release. Owners of such facilities must prepare a Risk Management Plan (RMP) by June 21, 1999 to detect and prevent or minimize accidental release of the substances and to provide a prompt emergency response to any such release. Covered facilities were initially required to comply with the rule in 1999, and the rule has been amended on several occasions since then, most recently in 2004.

RMP*eSubmit is software for facilities to use in submitting RMPs required under the Risk Management Program.

5. Operating Permit program

Law: CAA Title V
Regulation: 40 CFR 70

EPA’s operating permit program is intended to fold together the various air permit and standard requirements into a single permit document. It also allows the state to specify any additional requirements to meet federal or state ambient air standards, or to meet other state-level requirements. Note that the operating permit does not change the review process for new or modified sources of air pollutants. For example, whenever applicable, you would still have to apply for and receive a NSPS permit, which would then be folded into your operating permit. Congress intended that the states administer the operating permit program.

6. Reduction in use of ozone depleting substances

Law: CAA Title VI
Regulation: 40 CFR 82

Title VI of the 1990 CAA Amendments addresses stratospheric ozone depletion and global warming. It provides for the phaseout of ozone depleting substances and reflects the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.  Various regulations have been developed to manage ozone depleting substances, such as the industrial refrigerant recycling requirements and the requirements covering the disposal of appliances containing ozone-depleting substances.

7. Consumer products rule (Section 183(e))

Law: CAA Title I, Section 183(e)
Regulation: 40 CFR 59, subpart C

This rule is aimed at limiting the emissions of  volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from several types of consumer products, including various home beauty products, household cleaners, adhesives, and insecticides.  Although these consumer products are individually small sources of VOC emissions, in the aggregate they significantly increase the formation of ozone.  At ground level, ozone is a health hazard, even though in the stratosphere it is a valuable shield against the sun's uv rays.

The rule sets VOC content limits for 24 types of products, and VOC emissions limits for a 25th product (charcoal lighter materials).    Manufacturers, importers, and/or distributors must insure their products are in compliance with the VOC limitations, and must maintain records demonstrating compliance.

8. State-specific requirements

States are required under the CAA to develop a state implementation plan (SIP) which directs state progress towards meeting ambient air quality. There may thus be state-specific requirements that you need to meet that relate to your state’s SIP. In addition, the state can also impose additional or more stringent air permit and emission requirements. Note that these state-specific requirements are likely to be folded into your operating permit.
9. Climate change

EPA is considering using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. In April 2009, the agency proposed an endangerment finding which found the greenhouse gas emissions endangered the public's health and welfare. If that finding is finalized, EPA would then be required to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.


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