Clean Air Act Policy Updates

EPA Policy Update: Reclassification of Major Sources as Area Sources

February 12th, 2018

On January 25, 2018, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a guidance memorandum withdrawing the “once in always in” policy for the classification of major sources of hazardous air pollutants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act (CAA). Within the air compliance and permitting community, this guidance memorandum has been thought of as long overdue. Below are the guidance memorandum change details:

Encouraging Incentives for Investment

The guidance memorandum serves to reduce regulatory burden for industries and states while continuing to ensure stringent and effective controls on hazardous air pollutants. The “once in always in” policy created a disincentive for sources to implement voluntary pollution abatement and prevention efforts or to pursue technological innovations that would reduce hazardous air pollutant emissions. The regulatory community had requested rescission of this policy many times over the years in hopes of establishing incentives for investment in hazardous air pollutant reduction activities and technologies. Read on to learn what changes mean for area source classification and what the impacts are on facilities.

Implications for Facility Classification

The guidance memorandum calls for the elimination of the “once in always in” policy, through recognition that the EPA had no statutory authority to place a time limit on when a facility may be determined to be an area source. The EPA’s review of the CAA resulted in issuance of the memorandum whereby the EPA must allow facilities to be reclassified when major source facilities reduce their Potential to Emit (PTE) Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) through a process change or technological advancement that controls HAP emissions to levels below the major source threshold of 25 tons per year, the facility can now be reclassified as an area source. 

The EPA is anticipating that a Federal Register notice will be published soon to take comment on adding regulatory text that reflects the EPA’s interpretation of the CAA provided in the guidance memorandum.

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