EPA has announced a several changes to its Air Emissions Reporting Rule, or AERR that would make reporting of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) consistent from state to state, add electronic reporting of stack tests, decrease and standardize emissions thresholds, create earlier reporting deadlines, and add new point sources to reporting requirements.
All of the changes EPA is considering making is to help the agency comply with the presidential commitment to enhance environmental justice by gathering more detailed location-specific information.
Per the AERR, industry is already required to report emissions of common or criteria pollutants and the pollutants that form them, called precursors. Right now, the federal rule doesn’t require HAP reporting, but some states require reporting and voluntarily give this information to EPA. Not all states do, and not all Indian lands do either. For the ones that do, the rules can vary greatly from state to state.
The new rule would make HAP reporting standard for all facilities in all states who are:
- Major sources per Clean Air Act operating permits;
- Non-major sources who were in a certain industry emitting HAPS at or above a certain threshold;
- Indian lands; and,
- Offshore deep water ports.
Facilities would also be required to provide other details and data about HAPs from their stack test and performance evaluations. EPA would like these to be reported electronically through the Consolidated Emissions Data Reporting Interface (CERDI).
To help states find a way to make reporting this data to EPA be more streamlined without the need to create their own separate data collection programs, EPA would like for states to develop procedures to have industry use the online Combined Air Emissions Reporting System, or CAERS system. CAERS is already in use for reporting National Emissions Inventories and Toxic Release Inventories (TRI). EPA even hopes to work towards eventually using CAERS to gather Greenhouse Gas Reporting (GHG) data and incorporate the CERDI as well.
The new rule would start in 2027. This is because states have told EPA it can take two to three years for them to change their air emissions regulations. EPA also says time it can take states to migrate from their current systems to CAERS could be one to three years as well.
The proposed rule looks to make states work faster to get this data to EPA. Right now, states have 12 months after the end of the reporting period to turn in inventory data. That is, the reporting period ends on December 31, and EPA has until December 31of the following year to turn it in to EPA after receiving it from industry much earlier than that. Starting in 2027, state inventory data would be due to EPA by September 30 and starting in 2030, data would be due by May 31.
Many states already turn in their collected inventory data sooner than that 12-month deadline, but shortening the due dates may force all states to go to electronic systems and may cause some of them to move up due dates for industry.
If EPA’s goals of using CAERS for multiple emissions reports, EPA speculates the possibility arises industry may eventually see one consolidated deadline for all reports rather than the current tiered deadlines of GHG reports due March 31, some air emissions reports due May 31 and TRI reports due July 1. Another possibility to help alleviate stress in the deadlines in this case would be for industry to potentially report some data directly to EPA rather than go through the state.
EPA is currently seeking comments about the timing of the phase in deadlines and EPA wants feedback on these potential scenarios.
Standardized Emissions Thresholds
Under the current AERR rule, states report data on criteria pollutants and precursors that exceed certain thresholds. The thresholds are setup to be different each year over a triennial cycle. That is, they are higher in the first two years and then lower in the third year. On that third year, more facilities end up qualifying for reporting. The new rule would make the threshold the same each year. That would be the lower year 3 emissions threshold, causing more facilities to need to report every year. HAP thresholds would be the same each year as well.
Small Generating Unit Emissions Data Included
Some facilities use small generating units to help meet demand on high electricity demand days or use them to supplement their own electricity. EPA wants to make these a new source reporting requirement, taking daily data such as fuel use or heat input. EPA says that when facilities use a number of these at one time, the units can significantly add to ozone formation through emitting of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
Currently, emissions for these are reported as an annual, not daily, emissions value and only if they’re located at a point source. If they’re not located at a point source, they aren’t tracked at all. The new rule would track all of them at all facilities.
Prescribed Fire Data
The proposed rule would also add the requirement for state, local and tribal forestry agencies to report daily activities associated with prescribed fires on state, tribe, private, or military lands. This would include fires affecting more than 50 acres where there is forest canopy present (understory fire) or where there is little forest canopy like a grassland or oak woodland fire (broadcast fire), or pile burns of 25 acres or more.
Agricultural fires, land clearance fires and construction fires would not be included.
The public is invited to comment on the proposed rule up until October 18, 2023. You can find the entire rule HERE.
Need Help Sorting This Out?
If you have questions about air emissions reporting in general, anything discussed in this article or this proposed rule, or need help getting your environmental reporting taken care of, we’re here to help! Contact iSi today!