Environmental Protection Agency Proposes New Air Emissions Reporting Requirements

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced July 25 proposed updates to its Air Emissions Reporting Requirements (AERR), including a proposal to require the reporting of hazardous air pollutants, or “air toxics” (substances known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health effects). This update seeks to provide the EPA with accessible data allowing it to identify locations in need of solutions for people exposed to harmful air pollution, which communities can use to understand sources of air pollution that may be affecting them ­– including chemicals that can cause cancer and other serious health problems.

The proposal revises the AERR, which currently requires states to report only emissions of common air pollutants, such as particulate matter, along with pollutants that contribute to their formation, such as ozone-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  While most states choose to report some air toxics emissions data to the EPA, nationwide reporting has proved inconsistent.

The data EPA receives under the AERR forms the basis for the National Emissions Inventory (NEI).  The EPA uses information in the NEI as it develops and reviews regulations, conducts air quality modeling, and conducts risk assessments to understand how air pollution may affect the health of communities across the country. Other federal agencies (along with state, local, and tribal air agencies) also use NEI-provided data and information.

The proposed rule would require nearly 130,000 facilities to report air-toxics emissions directly to the EPA.  It would also give states the option to collect the air-toxics data from industry and report it to the EPA, provided the EPA approves their program. The proposal also includes provisions to limit burden on small businesses, such as allowing certain small businesses to report total emissions of each air toxics instead of providing more detailed information.

EPA’s proposal also looks to improve emissions data in other areas, by:

  • Requiring certain facilities located in tribal nations to report emissions if tribes do not report them;
  • Increasing reporting of common pollutants known as “criteria pollutants” by using the same emissions thresholds every year; and
  • Adding to the information that the EPA and other federal and state agencies have available to understand the impacts of prescribed fires.

The EPA will hold several informational webinars to provide background on the proposed rule and provide an opportunity for attendees to ask questions. The EPA will take written comment on the proposal for 70 days after it is published in the Federal Register. It will also will hold a virtual public hearing 21 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register.

For businesses, the most important part of the EPA’s proposed rule is its encouragement for states to collect air-toxics data from industry.  This could easily pose a significant regulatory burden upon affected businesses, especially those operating in states traditionally more open to privileging environmental legislation over commercial interests.  We will be keeping an eye on these regulations and their effects as the rulemaking process moves forward.