On April 17, 2010 EPA issued a guidance document on the implementation of significant impact levels (“SIL”) for ozone and fine particles.  Under EPA’s air pollution permitting regime known as “New Source Review,” SIL values are one way to demonstrate that a new facility or modification of an existing facility will not cause a violation of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (“NAAQS”) or Prevention of Significant Deterioration (“PSD”) increments for a regulated pollutant.  In short, if a source’s “projected impact on air quality” is below the “SIL,” the source is deemed to have no significant impact on air quality.  If a source’s impacts are above the SIL, far more extensive modeling analyses are needed to demonstrate compliance, so the SIL helps streamline the permitting process for projects that can meet it.

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On March 20th, the DC Circuit upheld EPA’s June 2012 “CSAPR = BART Rule,” establishing that compliance with EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) will satisfy the Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) requirements for SO2 and/or NOx under the Regional Haze Rules for electric generating units (EGUs) subject to CSAPR.   Under the Regional Haze Program, EPA has issued regulations that allow the Agency to approve alternatives to BART if EPA finds that the controls are “better than BART.”


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NSR—the program imposing onerous permitting requirements on the construction of new sources and “major modification” projects at existing sources—requires industrial sources of air emissions to determine whether the projects they propose will increase those emissions.  EPA adopted regulations in 2002 to provide a new structure for those critical emission calculations, which specifies that sources must calculate the “sum of the differences” between a baseline and a future projection for each existing emission unit.  That language is particularly important for individual projects that may cause emissions to go down at one unit but up at another.

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On March 1, 2018, EPA released a final rule defining nonattainment area classifications under the 2015 ozone standard, along with attainment deadlines for each classification.  The rule finalizes the classifications and deadlines that were originally proposed by the Obama administration in a proposed rule issued on November 17, 2016. (81 Fed. Reg. 81,276).  According to

On January 25, 2018, EPA’s Assistant Administrator, William Wehrum, issued a memorandum addressing when a “major source” subject to a section 112 maximum achievable control technology (“MACT”) standard of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) can be reclassified as an “area source,” and thus avoid any more stringent requirements that only apply to “major sources.”  The memorandum departs from and supersedes EPA’s longstanding “Once in Always in” (“OIAI”) policy articulated in the May 1995 Seitz Memorandum.  Under the OIAI policy, a major source of hazardous air pollutants (“HAPs”) was permanently subject to the MACT standard at the “first compliance date” of the standard even if the source was able to later limit its potential to emit (“PTE”) HAPs below the major source thresholds.  EPA’s new policy explains that a major source will become an area source once it takes enforceable limits on its PTE to ensure emissions cannot exceed the applicable major source thresholds for HAPS.

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On January 9, 2018, the EPA published the third round of final area designations under the 2010 SO2 NAAQS.  In this round, the EPA identified six (6) nonattainment areas located in Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and Guam.  EPA designated 23 areas as unclassifiable and all other areas as attainment/unclassifiable.  The primary focus in this round was on those areas electing to rely on ambient air quality modeling to assess attainment with the standard.

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On January 8, the Supreme Court denied Murray Energy’s petition for appeal of a Fourth Circuit decision that had rejected its efforts to obtain judicial enforcement of Section 321 of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”).  Section 321(a) requires EPA to evaluate the potential for plant closures and job losses resulting from regulation and/or enforcement under the Act.  The decision marks the end of a legal challenge brought by Murray Energy and 15 states in October 2016, in which the Northern District of West Virginia strongly rebuked EPA’s failure to comply with the statute (as previously reported here).  In a 27-page opinion, the district court took EPA to task, finding that the Agency’s longstanding failure to comply with § 321 evidenced a “continued hostility” to the provision.  The district court required the Agency to establish a system by the end of 2017 for conducting the evaluations.

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On January 9, 2018, EPA released the pre-publication copy of its annual civil monetary penalty adjustment.  The final rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on January 10, 2018.  The adjustments are mandated by 2015 revisions to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act, which requires federal agencies to make annual inflation adjustments to federal statutory civil penalty amounts.  In the past, EPA only adjusted penalty levels for inflation once every several years.  Beginning in 2017, however, EPA and other federal agencies must adjust their penalty amounts every year.
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