Special Topics in Environmental Management

EPA Removes Monitoring Requirement for Off-site Waste Recovery

In a final amendment, the EPA has eliminated a costly Clean Air Act requirement that was included in a 2015 rule affecting off-site waste and recovery operations (OSWROs). The 2015 rule comprised residual risk and technology reviews (RTRs) of the 1996 National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for the OSWRO sector. In that action, the EPA decided to include a continuous monitoring requirement for pressure relief devices (PRDs) on containers. However, the Agency did not thoroughly investigate the cost of PRD monitors, which would need to be wireless because containers are regularly moved at OSWROs. The Agency eventually estimated the capital cost of such monitors for all 49 OSWRO facilities subject to NESHAP at $28 million and annual costs at $4.2 million. The EPA did not specifically cite the high cost of the requirement as a reason for withdrawing it. However, the Agency noted that the risks of PRD leaks at OSWROs were low given the other requirements covering containers.

OWSROs are operations conducted to manage, convey, or handle wastes or recoverable materials that are received from other facilities and contain hazardous air pollutants. In other words, the waste or recoverable material has been generated off-site at a separate location and then shipped or transferred to the facility for subsequent management.

Petition for reconsideration

After issuing the 2015 RTR amendments, the EPA received a petition from the Eastman Chemical Company and the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which asked the Agency to reconsider the continuous monitoring requirements for PRDs on containers. Containers are, by definition, portable units that hold material. The petitioners’ concern was that because containers are portable, frequently moved around OSWRO facilities, and are received from many different off-site locations, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to design and implement a monitoring system for containers that would meet the 2015 RTR requirements. The ACC also filed suit against the EPA and the PRD requirement in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In June 2017, the parties reached a settlement in which the ACC agreed to withdraw its court complaint, and the EPA agreed to reconsider the requirement according to a fixed schedule.

Existing requirements sufficient

In the current final rule, the EPA notes that PRD inspection and monitoring requirements applicable to containers at OSWRO facilities already incorporated into the requirements of the original OSWRO NESHAP are effective and sufficient. Depending on the size of the container, the vapor pressure of the container contents, and how the container is used (i.e.,temporary storage and/or transport of the material versus waste stabilization), the rule requires the OSWRO owners or operators to follow the requirements for either Container Level 1, 2, or 3 control requirements, as specified in the container NESHAP (40 CFR Part 63, Subpart pp.)

Each control level specifies requirements to ensure the integrity of the container and its ability to contain its contents (e.g., requirements to meet U.S. Department of Transportation regulations on packaging hazardous materials for transportation, or vapor tightness as determined by EPA Method 21, or no detectable leaks as determined by EPA Method 27); requirements for covers and closure devices (which include pressure relief valves as that term is defined in the container NESHAP at 40 CFR 63.921); and inspection and monitoring requirements for containers and their covers and closure devices pursuant to the container NESHAP at 40 CFR 63.926.

Also, the petitioners informed the Agency that almost every OSWRO facility reported that they unload their containers daily, so if a release from such a PRD on a container were to occur, the facility would likely detect it during the unloading that happens on a daily basis.

The EPA states that removal of the monitoring requirement does not “substantially change the level of protection provided under the OSWRO NESHAP.”

The final amendment was published in the January 29, 2018, FR.

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