EPA mostly approves North Carolina NAAQS SIP

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking final action to approve in part and conditionally approve in part portions of a North Carolina State Implementation Plan (SIP) for the 1997 annual and 2006 24-hour fine particulate matter (PM2.5) national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS).

Section 110(a) of the Clean Air Act requires that each state adopt and submit a SIP for the implementation, maintenance, and enforcement of each NAAQS promulgated by EPA, which is commonly referred to as an “infrastructure” SIP. North Carolina certified in two separate submissions that its SIP contains provisions that ensure the 1997 annual and 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS are implemented in North Carolina.

With the exception of elements 110(a)(2)(C), 110(a)(2)(D)(i), 110(a)(2)(E)(ii) and 110(a)(2)(J), North Carolina’s infrastructure submissions, provided to EPA in April 2008 and September 2009, address all the required infrastructure elements for the 1997 annual and 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS, EPA said in an Oct. 16 Federal Register notice. With respect to sections 110(a)(2)(C), 110(a)(2)(E)(ii) and 110(a)(2)(J), EPA is conditionally approving these requirements, with that approval to be effective Nov. 15.

EPA said it received adverse comments from the Sierra Club on the July 24, 2012, proposed rulemaking to approve North Carolina’s April 2008 and September 2009 infrastructure submissions as meeting the requirements of certain sections of 110(a)(1) and (2) of the CAA for the 1997 annual and 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS. Among other things, the Sierra Club contended that North Carolina’s SIP does not contain the requisite enforceable limits for PM2.5, and therefore, EPA cannot approve the state’s infrastructure SIP submission with respect to section 110(a)(2)(A). It asserted that North Carolina’s SIP does not distinguish between filterable and condensable PM to demonstrate that condensable PM2.5 emissions are limited and monitored. In addition, it stated that North Carolina regulations do not currently provide adequate enforceable limitations for PM2.5 emissions from individual sources.

In support of this position, the Sierra Club notes that the North Carolina SIP addresses emissions of particulate matter generally, and does not distinguish between PM10 and PM2.5. It also references the particulate matter maximum emission rates for two coal-fired power plants by way of example and argues that because test methods, such as Reference Test Method 5, do not test for condensable PM, as a practical matter, the SIP does not currently contain PM2.5 emissions limits for sources that have not recently undergone new source review. It asserts that, as a result, the SIP does not ensure specific sources in North Carolina maintain the PM2.5 NAAQS in attainment and unclassifiable areas. It concludes that this constitutes a SIP deficiency germane to EPA’s determination respecting the sufficiency of the state’s infrastructure SIP for purposes of section 110(a)(2)(A).

EPA said it disagrees with the contention that the state’s infrastructure SIP submission is not approvable with respect to section 110(a)(2)(A) because it does not contain adequate enforceable emissions limitations on PM2.5. With respect to specific concerns about the adequacy of emissions limitations at stationary sources, the Sierra Club is incorrect with respect both to the scope of what is germane to an action on an infrastructure SIP and with respect to when certain regulatory requirements for stationary sources became operative. This comment pertains to EPA’s action on an infrastructure SIP, which must meet the general structural requirements described in section 110(a)(2)(A), EPA noted.

EPA says state doesn’t need all applicable rules in place beforehand

The Sierra Club seems to believe that in the context of an infrastructure SIP submission, section 110(a)(2)(A) explicitly requires that a state adopt all possible new enforceable emission limits, control measures and other means developed specifically for attaining and maintaining the new state NAAQS, EPA said. “EPA does not believe that this is a reasonable interpretation of the provision with respect to infrastructure SIP submissions,” it said. “Rather, EPA believes that different requirements for SIPs become due at different times depending on the precise applicable requirements in the CAA. For example, some state regulations are required pursuant to CAA section 172(b), as part of an attainment demonstration for areas designated as nonattainment for the standard. The timing of such an attainment demonstration would be after promulgation of a NAAQS, after completion of designations, and after the development of the applicable nonattainment plans. The Commenter seems to believe that EPA should disapprove a state’s infrastructure SIP if the state has not already developed all the substantive emissions limitations that may ultimately be required for all purposes, such as attainment and maintenance of the NAAQS as part of an attainment plan for a designated nonattainment area.”

The two plants cited by the Sierra Club as examples are the Allen and Asheville coal-fired power plants. For purposes of approving North Carolina’s infrastructure submittal as it relates to section 110(a)(2)(A), EPA said its evaluation is limited to whether the state has adopted, as necessary and appropriate, enforceable emission limitations and other control measures to meet applicable structural requirements of the CAA. “Today’s action does not involve source specific evaluations of particular emissions limits or whether the state has correctly imposed emissions limitations on each stationary source,” EPA wrote. “Moreover, EPA disagrees that the Allen and Asheville coal-fired power plant examples cited by the Commenter demonstrate a SIP deficiency germane to an EPA approval action respecting infrastructure 110(a)(2)(A) requirements. The Commenter has not identified how these maximum emissions limits, which were approved into the SIP on February 14, 1996, demonstrate that North Carolina has not sufficiently addressed the treatment of condensables in the State consistent with EPA guidance and the requirements of the CAA.”

EPA added: “In the implementation regulations for the PM2.5 NAAQS, EPA separately authorized states to elect not to address condensable emissions in their air pollution programs until on or after January 1, 2011. Thus, the State was not required to address condensables at the time these maximum emission rates were incorporated into the SIP. The State’s compliance with what EPA authorized with respect to condensables is not grounds for disapproval of the state’s infrastructure SIP submission. Likewise, the fact that existing sources which have not gone through new source review in recent years are not subject to PM2.5 emissions limits is not grounds for disapproving section 110(a)(2)(A). As referenced above, consistent with EPA authorization, states may elect not to address condensable emissions in their air pollution programs until on or after January 1, 2011. The fact that existing sources would not be subject to such requirements prior to this applicability date is not a grounds upon which to disapprove the infrastructure SIP submission with respect to section 110(a)(2)(A). EPA believes that the better approach to ensure that sources are evaluated in due course for condensable emissions as required by federal regulations after January 1, 2011, is through revisions to the PSD program consistent with the requirements of sections 110(a)(2)(C), (D)(i)(II) and (J).”

EPA is conditionally approving North Carolina’s infrastructure SIP submission as it relates to the section 110(a)(2)(C) and (J) PSD requirements. This conditional approval is based upon a commitment by the state to make a submission to meet current PSD program requirements, including proper evaluation of condensable emissions on an ongoing basis, in future regulatory actions, such as PSD permits, EPA said. In addition, EPA noted that as a matter of state law, North Carolina has already elected to incorporate by reference EPA’s own regulations relevant to the May 16, 2008, PM2.5 NSR Implementation Rule. Thus, as a practical matter, EPA believes that sources will in fact be evaluated for condensable emissions in the interim prior to the SIP submission from the state to meet the conditional approval requirement for section 110(a)(2)(C) and (J).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.