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Gimme Three Steps

How the three-step EPA greenhouse gas regulation rollout will affect your firm.

On May 13, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from municipal solid waste landfills or incinerators. This final “Tailoring Rule” addresses emissions of a group of six GHGs including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. Under the rule, EPA uses carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) as the metric for determining whether sources are covered for purposes of permitting. These rules are significant for the municipal solid waste (MSW) industry because, for the first time, these facilities will have to control their GHG emissions.

The Tailoring Rule outlines a three-step process for phased implementation based on existing permit type (i.e., Prevention of Significant Deterioration [PSD] and Title V).

Step 1

Step 1 begins on Jan. 2, 2011 and ends on June 30, 2011. Under this step, sources would not be subject to permitting because of their GHG emissions. Sources otherwise subject to PSD (i.e., newly constructed or modified in a way that increases emissions of a regulated pollutant other than GHG) may be subject to permitting and best available control technology (BACT) analysis if net GHG emissions increase by 75,000 tons of CO2e per year (tpy) or more.

Sources currently holding a Title V permit (i.e., major sources for a pollutant other than GHG) will be subject to Title V requirements for GHG when they apply for, renew or revise their permits. EPA lists large municipal solid waste landfills (new source standards [NSPS] landfills) and MSW incinerators capable of processing more than 250 tons of refuse per day as sources affected in Step 1.

Step 2

Step 2 begins on July 1, 2011 and ends on June 30, 2013. Under Step 2, PSD will apply to modifications at existing facilities if the facility emits 100,000 tpy CO2e and the modification increases net GHG emissions by at least 75,000 tpy CO2e. PSD will also apply to new construction if the facility will emit at least 100,000 tpy CO2e. Under Step 2, Title V operating permits will apply to facilities that emit at least 100,000 tpy CO2e. In general, these sources include MSW landfills that are large, but not large enough to be covered by NSPS.

Step 3

In Step 3, EPA has committed to undertake another rulemaking period that would begin in 2011 and conclude by July 1, 2012. EPA will accept comments on an additional step for phasing in GHG permitting, and may discuss whether certain smaller sources can be permanently excluded from permitting. EPA also plans to explore a range of opportunities for streamlining future GHG permitting that has the potential to significantly reduce permitting burdens. In addition, EPA will propose viable streamlining options in the Step 3 rulemaking. Step 3, if established, will not require permitting for sources with GHG emissions below 50,000 tpy. EPA will not require permits for smaller sources in Step 3 or through any other action until at least April 30, 2016.

The final rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register, but a pre-publication copy is available online at www.epa.gov/NSR/documents/20100413final.pdf. If you have any questions regarding the rule, contact Ed Repa, NSWMA's Director of Environmental Programs, at 202-364-3773 or [email protected].

Ed Repa is director of environmental programs for the National Solid Wastes Management Association. Reach him at (202) 364-3773.

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