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EPA Affirms Greenhouse Gas Permitting Thresholds to be Left Unchanged


By Andy Bowman, Attorney, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP

On June 29, 2012, EPA issued a final rule reflecting its decision to not lower the GHG permitting thresholds under the PSD and Title V Operating Permit programs.  The rule appeared in the July 12, 2012 Federal Register.  This rule is the third step in EPA’s phased approach to GHG permitting.  Step 1 and Step 2 thresholds were established in the 2010 GHG Tailoring Rule.  EPA’s final rule leaves unchanged the following permitting thresholds for GHGs as carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), which have been in effect since July 1, 2011:

  • A new facility with GHG emissions of at least 100,000 tons per year (tpy) CO2e is required to obtain a PSD permit.
  • An existing facility that emits at least 100,000 tpy CO2e that makes changes that would increase GHG emissions by at least 75,000 tpy of CO2e must obtain a PSD permit.
  • A facility that must obtain a PSD permit for other regulated pollutants must also address GHG emissions increases of 75,000 tpy CO2e in the PSD permit.
  • New and existing sources with GHG emissions above 100,000 tpy of CO2e must obtain a Title V Operating Permit.

EPA explained that it decided not to lower the permitting thresholds at this time because state and local permitting authorities have not developed adequate permitting infrastructure and expertise to handle additional smaller sources of GHG.  According to EPA as of mid-May 2012, 44 PSD permits have been issued that cover GHG emissions.

The final rule also now allows the use of plantwide applicability limits (PAL) for GHG emissions in addition to the existing mass-based limits.  A PAL provides a source the opportunity to make facility changes without triggering a PSD permit requirement as long as the resulting emissions increase does not exceed the PAL.  The rule will enable a source with GHG emissions of 100,000 tpy or more of CO2e that is a minor source for all other regulated pollutants to obtain a synthetic minor GHG PAL and maintain minor source status.  The PAL revisions in the final rule apply to permits issued by EPA or a delegated state or local permitting agency.  States, like Indiana and Kentucky, that have EPA-approved SIP PSD programs are not required to adopt these PAL provisions into their SIPs.

To view a complete PDF of the Second Quarter 2012 issue of the Air Quality Letter, click HERE.


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