Spring 2003-02 EPA revisits its new source review program

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Number 51
Spring 2003

EPA revisits its new source review program

On November 22, 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule
which revises the New Source Review program under the Clean Air Act. NSR regulates (a) the construction of new, major emitting industrial facilities and (b) existing facilities that make major modifications that significantly increase pollution emissions.

Most notably, the NSR program requires that new plants and major modifications of existing plants obtain a pre-construction permit, which may be issued only if the new plant or existing modification includes pollution control measures that incorporate the best technology available.

Major improvements

EPA's final rule implements the following major improvements to the NSR program:

o Plant-wide Applicability Limits ("PALs"). Allows the use of PALs, which, in general, provide a plant-wide emissions cap under which changes can be made to the plant without triggering NSR, as long as the PAL is not exceeded.

o Emissions Calculation Test Methodology. Major changes in this area are two-fold. First, baseline actual emissions are now calculated based on any two-year period within the past ten years. Second, NSR applicability is now determined by comparing baseline actual emissions with projected actual emissions. In the past, NSR was frequently triggered when projected potential emissions were used.

o Clean Unit Provisions. To encourage the installation of state-of-the-art air pollution controls, a new, less-stringent applicability test has been promulgated by EPA for modifications at plants achieving "clean unit" status. Briefly, "clean units" are those that have already been forced to meet best available control technology ("BACT") or lowest achievable emissions rate ("LAER") under NSR, within the previous ten years. NSR would not be triggered at such units if the emissions still fall within permitted levels. This flexibility is an incentive for plants to voluntarily install best available pollution controls.

o Pollution Control and Prevention Projects. Companies that undertake certain listed environmentally beneficial activities will be free to do so upon submission to their permitting authority of a notice, rather than wait for a permit application decision. Installation of these pollution control projects will no longer trigger NSR.

Effective date

The NSR final rule became effective on March 3, 2003. More information and guidance on these important revisions to the NSR program can be obtained at http://www.epa.gov/nsr. n


© 2003 Goldman Antonetti