The EPA is moving to include more industrial sources in requirements that govern major facility modifications, according to a proposed rule the agency released on Thursday.
The proposal would require all existing major industrial facilities to account for their “fugitive” emissions when determining whether big modifications to their plants would require major New Source Review (NSR) permits before construction.
The action scraps a 2008 rule that only included sources such as petrochemical refineries and coal-fired power plants in the more stringent NSR requirements based on their fugitive emissions, which come from leaks or other areas outside of regulated sources like smokestacks or chimneys.
Allowing large, existing sources to ignore fugitive emissions increases in modification plans “could reduce the likelihood that projects would be subject to careful evaluation through the major NSR permitting process, notwithstanding significant increases in actual air pollution,” the EPA said in its proposal.
Additionally, the agency notes that doing away with the 2008 rule better aligns with the NSR process and “minimizes confusion for all stakeholders.”
It doesn’t make sense to exclude fugitive emissions from new source permit regulations, since much of that pollution is released at ground-level and makes its way to nearby communities more directly, according to Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project.
“The fenceline monitoring at refineries and chemical plants has already shown that emissions from those sources are much higher than the industry reports and that is almost certainly driven by leak rates that are undetected or unreported,” he told Bloomberg Law in an email.
The American Petroleum Institute “is in the process of reviewing EPA’s proposal in more detail,” according to an email from a spokesperson.
The proposal will be open for industry and other stakeholder comments for 60 days from when it formally publishes in the Federal Register on Friday.