Environmental Permitting

NESHAP Change for Pulp and Paper

The first is a final rule that modifies the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP, 40 CFR Part 63, Subpart S) for the sector.  The primary change installs a new requirement to conduct repeat air emissions performance testing once every 5 years.  Additional changes eliminate the start-up, shutdown, and malfunction (SSM) exemption; require electronic submission of performance test reports; and add new test methods for measuring methanol.  Perhaps the most significant news in the final rule is that the EPA decided against increasing the required HAP removal percentage from 92 percent to 94 percent for the kraft pulping process.  The Agency had proposed increasing the stringency of this standard, but decided the high cost of such a change did not produce equivalent benefits.


As required by the CAA, the EPA conducted a residual risk and technology (RTR) review of the 1998 NESHAP.  RTR reviews are the second stage of the NESHAP process and must be completed by the Agency every 8 years after promulgation of the initial NESHAP.  The CAA directs the EPA to review the maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards for the affected sector and revise them to reflect new developments in practices, processes, and control technologies.  The EPA must also evaluate health risks to the public posed by the affected sector after application of the NESHAP and, if necessary, revise them as well to provide an ample margin of safety.  Any revisions necessitated by health concerns must consider costs, energy, safety, adverse environmental effect, and any other relevant factors. 

According to the EPA, the source category comprises 171 facilities, 114 of which would be affected by the following changes.

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Repeat emissions testing.  The RTR revisions require repeat air emissions performance testing once every 5 years for facilities complying with the standards for kraft, soda, and semichemical pulping vent gases (40 CFR 63.443(a)); sulfite processes (40 CFR 63.444); bleaching systems (40 CFR 63.445); and kraft pulping process condensate (40 CFR 63.446) when the facility uses a steam stripper.  The first of the 5-year repeat tests must be conducted by September 7, 2015, and thereafter within 60 months from the date of the previous performance tests.  Five-year repeat testing is not required for knotter or screen systems with HAP emissions rates below the criteria specified in 40 CFR 63.443(a)(1)(ii), or decker systems using fresh water or paper machine white water, or decker systems using process water with a total HAP concentration less than 400 parts per million by weight, as specified at 40 CFR 63.443(a)(1)(iv).

SSM.  In response to a 2008 judicial ruling, the EPA has been forced to eliminate from its NESHAPs the regulatory exemption from emissions requirements previously allowed during periods of start-up, shutdown, and malfunction.  Commenters on the proposed revisions to the pulp and paper NESHAP argued that affected sources would not be able to comply during periods of SSM and that alternative emissions requirements were warranted.  The EPA replied that it saw no information that persuaded it that sources could not comply with the baseline standards during start-up and shutdown and did not issue alternative standards for these periods, which the Agency views as predictable and routine aspects of a source’s operations.

“Malfunction,” on the other hand, is defined as a “sudden, infrequent, and not reasonably preventable failure of air pollution control and monitoring equipment, process equipment, or a process to operate in a normal or usual manner.”  In the event a source fails to comply with the NESHAP because of a malfunction, the EPA says it would determine an appropriate response based on, among other things, the good-faith efforts of the source to minimize emissions during the malfunction, including preventive and corrective actions, as well as root cause analyses to ascertain and rectify violations. The EPA would also consider whether the source’s failure to comply with the standards was, in fact, sudden, infrequent, and not reasonably preventable and was not instead caused, in part, by poor maintenance or careless operation. 

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Should the Agency determine that the malfunction met the legitimacy criteria, the regulations provide for an affirmative defense against civil penalties.  The affirmative defense provision is intended to ensure adequate compliance while simultaneously recognizing that despite the most diligent efforts, emissions limits may be exceeded under circumstances beyond the control of the source.  The affirmative defense is not available for claims for injunctive relief. 

This revision was effective September 11, 2012.

Submissions.  The EPA is requiring owners and operators of pulp and paper facilities to submit electronic copies of required performance tests.  Data will be collected through the Agency’s electronic reporting tool (ERT), which generates an electronic report that is then submitted to EPA’s central data exchange (CDX) through its compliance and emissions data reporting interface (CEDRI).  A description of the ERT is at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/ert/index.html, and CEDRI can be accessed through the CDX website at http://www.epa.gov/cdx.

This revision was effective September 11, 2012.

Test methods.  As alternatives to EPA Method 308 and to allow mills greater flexibility in demonstrating compliance with emissions limits for total HAP measured as methanol, the EPA has included four additional test methods for measuring methanol emissions from pulp and paper processes.  The added test methods are listed at 40 CFR 63.457(b)(5)(i). 

This revision was effective September 11, 2012.

Technology review.  In its proposal, the EPA sought to strengthen the draft pulping process condensate standards by increasing the HAP removal requirement from 92 percent to 94 percent.  Commenters opposed this aspect of the proposal for multiple reasons, including calculation methodology issues, data misinterpretation, undetermined impacts on mills utilizing the clean condensate compliance alternative, and additional steam and energy impacts for rule compliance. 

The EPA reanalyzed the proposed requirement and estimated that the 2 percent difference in the HAP removal requirement would impose a $423 million capital cost on the industry and an additional $85 million a year.  The estimated additional 23,000 tons per year reduction of HAPs would come at a cost of $37,000 per ton.  The EPA conceded that this was not a cost-effective trade-off.  Moreover, the Agency said that in writing the proposal, it had failed to fully consider the energy and secondary air emissions impacts the 94 percent reduction requirement would have on small mills because of increased steam demand for new and upgraded stripper systems.  For these and related reasons, the proposed change to the HAP removal standard was not finalized.

EPA’s final RTR rule was published in the September 11, 2012, FR. 

See tomorrow’s Advisor for details on the other new air development–NSPS revisions.

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