Current Air Regulatory Drivers
The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) at levels that are protective of public health with an adequate margin of safety. The six pollutants specified include: ozone (O3), Particulate Matter (PM), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Lead, and Carbon Monoxide (CO).
The NAAQS provisions require that states comply with ozone and particulate emissions standards. NOx emissions are a precursor to ozone formation and also contribute to fine particulate emissions (PM2.5), which has been the recent regulatory driver through the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). NOx emissions were targeted as contributors to fine particulate emissions (PM2.5) and ozone emissions.Since 1990, programs have been established by EPA at the regional and federal level to help states in their mission to define and meet their State Implementation Plans (SIPs) for attainment. NAAQS PM standards were issued in 1997, with more stringent standards issued in 2006 and 2012. The NAAQS ozone standards issued in 1997 were made more stringent in 2008. EPA plans to propose a rule on whether and how to revise the 2008 ozone NAAQS in December 2013 and to issue a final rule in September 2014.
On July 7, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency passed the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) under the “good neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions of SO2 and NOx from power plants in the eastern half of the United States. This rule replaces the Clean Air Transport Rule (CATR) and focuses on reducing air emissions contributing to fine particle (PM2.5) and ozone nonattainment that often travel across state lines; including sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) which contribute to PM2.5 transport.
As a replacement for CAIR, CSAPR included more stringent NOx regulations affecting 27 states, with compliance for the first phase in 2012, with additional reductions required in the second phase by 2014. Under CSAPR, state emission caps were designated to mitigate the emission impact on downwind states by controlling emissions from upwind states. If sources within a state caused the state to exceed its assurance limit, severe penalties including a two-for-one reduction based on each source’s contribution percentage of the state overage would be applied. A stay on CSAPR was ordered by the D.C. Circuit Court on December 30, 2011, pending resolution of litigation filed by a number of states and companies with combustion sources. The DC Circuit Court vacated CSAPR on August 21, 2012, with a 2-1 vote. The decision identified issues with EPA procedures and authority of certain CSAPR provisions which were not consistent with the Clean Air Act. CAIR was put back into effect pending possible future actions.
On October 5, 2012, EPA filed for an en banc review of CSAPR by the full DC Circuit Court, which was rejected by the Court on January 24, 2013. On March 29, 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of EPA filed petitions to the US Supreme Court seeking review of the DC Circuit Court decision. For more information, click here.
In December 2011, EPA re-proposed its new emissions rule for industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and process heaters, known as the Industrial Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standard. EPA proposed the Final Rule on January 31, 2013, with compliance scheduled for January 2016. Emissions regulated include acid gas emissions including hydrochloric acid (HCl), carbon monoxide (CO), mercury, PM, and dioxins. Click here to review status or visit the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners for more information.
The Clean Air Visibility Rule (CAVR), also known as the Regional Haze rule, also part of the Clean Air Act, was finalized in 2005. Under CAVR, Federal Class 1 protected from areas of impairment. While this has many ramifications the practical effect of Fuel Tech is that many large sources west of the CSAPR affected states now have NOx reduction requirements. States are required to submit SIPs to comply with the Regional Haze requirements, and updates are required every five years. The overall obligation of CAVR is to return the US scenic areas to “active” visibility by 2064. Sources in CSAPR states that comply with CSAPR requirements will be compliment with CAVR.
Consent decree activity through the US Department of Justice or EPA may require emission sources to meet individual requirements. Sources may also agree to specific air pollution requirements with states or environmental groups.
Past Regulatory Drivers
Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR)
In 2005 EPA promulgated the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) to continue to deal with interstate transport of ozone. CAIR also helps states in their efforts to attain compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM2.5 by reducing emissions of its precursors, NOx and SO2. CAIR was designed to accomplish its goals by creating three separate trading programs: an annual NOx program, an ozone season NOx program and annual SO2 program. CAIR’s emission reduction requirements begin in 2009 for the NOx ozone season and annual programs, and 2010 for the SO2 annual program. The CAIR rule was vacated in July 2009, and reinstated in December 2009. The US Court of Appeals instructed the EPA to fix several flaws in the CAIR rule. The root of the problem stems from the regional effect of transported NOx. The Court said EPA did not adequately account for contribution to non-attainment by the CAIR rule trading program. The original CAIR plan was reinstated in December 2008, and remained in place until July 2011, when it was replaced with the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). CAIR was re-instated in December 2011 and will remain in effect until the future of CSAPR is resolved.
In 1998, the U.S. EPA finalized the NOx SIP Call which concluded that NOx emissions in twenty-two states and the District of Columbia contributed to ozone nonattainment in other states due to transport. EPA's SIP call directed those states to reduce their emissions and offered the states the opportunity to participate in a trading program that reduced NOx to the aggregate equivalent of 0.15 lb/MMBtu. The size of the trading region increased to cover 20 states and the District of Columbia. Compliance dates varied by state with the last states joining the NBP in 2007.
The movement of ozone and other pollutants by wind currents - a phenomenon known as interstate transport - can cause pollution levels to be elevated even in areas that do not have emission sources. In 1990 Congress created the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) directing the states in the Northeastern U.S. to collaboratively find a solution to the persistent summertime ozone. The OTC set out to accomplish this goal in part by implementing a regional trading program for NOx (an ozone precursor) that covered 10 states. The OTC remains in effect as a regional entity to assist the states in the Northeast as they move towards compliance with future NAAQS standards. On a regional basis the Ozone Transport Commission is considering deeper seasonal NOx reductions overlaid on the CAIR rule, including controls on all boilers > 100 MMBtu/hr. Since the NOx SIP requirements were generally on units >250 MMBtu/hr, there are additional industrial boilers in this heat input range with a roughly equivalent range of 10-25MW that will be required to reduce NOx emissions.