Chemicals, Enforcement and Inspection

EPA Issues New Air Regulations for Chemical Industry

On April 9, 2024, the EPA announced it issued a final rule titled “New Source Performance Standards for the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturing Industry and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturing Industry and Group I & II Polymers and Resins Industry.”

This marks the first rule issued by the EPA for the chemical industry in 20 years, according to radio station WBUR.

“This action finalizes amendments to the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) that apply to the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturing Industry (SOCMI) and amendments to the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) that apply to the SOCMI (more commonly referred to as the Hazardous Organic NESHAP or HON) and Group I and II Polymers and Resins (P&R I and P&R II, respectively) Industries,” states the pre-publication version of the final rule.

According to the EPA, this rule is expected to slash more than 6,200 tons of toxic air pollution each year and reduce both ethylene oxide (EtO) and chloroprene emissions from covered processes and equipment by nearly 80%. In addition, the rule will reduce more than 23,000 tons of smog-forming emissions each year.  

Facilities covered by the rule are required to conduct fenceline monitoring for key toxic chemicals

The EPA will make this data publicly available to better inform and safeguard nearby communities.

Key takeaways

  1. The final rule will reduce the number of people with elevated risk in communities near chemical plants that emit EtO or chloroprene by 96%. The EPA expects the rule to reduce harm to several groups of people who are often overburdened by air pollution. The rule will also benefit children by reducing their exposure to air toxics emissions.
  2. As part of the final rule, the Agency is also issuing new emissions limits for dioxins and furans.
  3. New plants or plants that are modified must comply with the rule when it takes effect or when they begin operation, whichever is later. The “effective date” is 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register.
  4. Existing plants have different compliance deadlines, depending on the types of sources at the plant and what those sources emit. (For more information about these deadlines, see the EPA overview fact sheet.)
  5. Some plants also will have to monitor the air at their fence line. They must do this if sources covered by the rule make, use, store, or emit EtO; chloroprene; benzene; 1,3-butadiene; ethylene dichloride; or vinyl chloride. Monitoring for chloroprene at neoprene production sources must start 90 days after the rule takes effect. For the other chemicals, monitoring must begin two years after the synthetic organic chemical manufacturing rule takes effect.

“Even if the new rules are to apply nationwide, the government action primarily targets the chemicals corridor on the Gulf Coast. More than half of the 218 facilities affected by the new regulations are concentrated in the states of Louisiana and Texas, where the vast complexes of [ ] chemical giants such as Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics, Japan-based Denka Performance Elastomer and South Africa’s Sasol dot the coastal landscape,” notes European news site

Environmental groups praised the new rule.

“Today marks a victory in the pursuit for environmental justice, with the final rule poised to significantly reduce the toxic air pollution that harms communities in Texas’s Gulf Coast, Louisiana’s Cancer Alley and throughout the U.S.,” said Patrice Simms, Earthjustice vice president for healthy communities, in an EPA news release. “Setting protective air standards for over 200 chemical plants and requiring fenceline monitoring for some of the most toxic emissions shows a commitment to protecting public health. We look forward to the EPA’s swift implementation and rigorous enforcement of this critical rule.”

Industry sources have condemned the new rule.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) “expressed criticism of the plans, accusing the EPA of using ‘a deeply flawed method’ of determining the toxicity of ethylene oxide,” continues. “The [ACC] said it ‘remains concerned’ about the Biden administration’s ‘recent onslaught’ of chemical regulations, adding that without a change of approach, the availability of critical chemistries will decline.

“Denka called the EPA’s action ‘another attempt to drive a policy agenda that is unsupported.’”

For more information, see the EPA Stationary Sources of Air Pollution website.


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