On April 22, 2020, EPA published an interim final rule providing relief to sources that are subject to the quality assurance testing and reporting under 40 CFR Part 75. The initial summary of the rule indicates the policy applies to sources that monitor and report emissions under the Acid Rain Program, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), and/or the NOX SIP Call. However, the rule itself indicates that relief is available to any source that reports emissions to EPA under 40 CFR part 75. EPA expects the rule will provide relief for hundreds of facilities that would otherwise be required to conduct over a thousand quality assurance tests combined during the next three months in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
The rule adopts a new provision (40 CFR § 75.68) to address failure to meet a deadline for a required quality-assurance, certification or recertification, Appendix D fuel analysis, Appendix E and low mass emission rate tests (e.g., relative accuracy test audits, linearity checks) due to COVID-19-related travel, plant access, or other safety restrictions. The rule allows the unit’s actual monitored data to remain valid despite the delayed tests (so long as otherwise valid), allowing the unit to temporarily continue to report actual monitored data instead of “substitute” data. Importantly, the rule does not suspend requirements to monitor or report emissions for every operating hour of a control period, or alter any existing emissions limitations and, thus, the rule will not have any effect on actual emissions.
The EPA recognized that under the existing Part 75 regulations, missing a test deadline and using substitute data can be very costly for a source. Avoiding the need to use substitute data is helpful because “substitute data are intentionally conservative (i.e., high-biased), causing the emissions reported for the source to be higher,” up to and including maximum potential to emit values instead of recorded data. Use of substitute data could increase the number of emission allowances that covered facilities may need to hold, even though emissions have not actually changed.
To qualify for relief, sources must maintain documentation, notify the EPA when a test is delayed and later completed, and certify to the EPA that the data are otherwise valid and that the delay was caused by the pandemic. Notifications may not contain confidential business information and must be submitted by email to email@example.com within 5 days after the deadline, and the EPA will post summaries of the notifications on a publicly accessible website.
The interim final rule is immediately effective, but the EPA seeks comments, due 30 days after publication on May 22, 2020.