The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) acknowledged improvements to proposed changes to the chemical manufacturing area sources rule, but said serious concerns remain over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) failure to completely exempt “synthetic minors” from a key Title V provision in the rule.
The new proposal addresses several of SOCMA’s concerns, such as fixing the “family of materials" concept in a way that gives chemical companies certainty regarding the reach of the rule. On others, however – especially the Title V provision – SOCMA is concerned about EPA's logic and the rule’s cost impact. This rule has been a top environmental priority for SOCMA members over the last few years, leading SOCMA to file a Petition for Reconsideration of the final rule with EPA in February 2010.
EPA originally proposed to exempt all chemical manufacturing area sources from the requirement to obtain a costly Title V permit, but reversed course in the final rule. The requirement that synthetic minors get a Title V permit – which is currently stayed – would limit the speed and flexibility with which those units can respond to market opportunities. This is a major issue for SOCMA members, whose batch and specialty chemical businesses have diverse and rapidly changing product mixes.
SOCMA also expressed disappointment about EPA’s complete failure to address other issues raised in its 2010 petition, including the establishment of a de minimis threshold and a fairer R&D exemption. In fact, by now proposing to reduce the applicability threshold in one area, EPA will actually increase the number of facilities that will be subject to the rule.
The agency also did not address the urgent need for an extension of the October 2012 compliance deadline, which SOCMA has repeatedly raised with EPA. Given the uncertainty about what the end result of the reconsideration process would look like – including confusion about how the concept of “family of materials” would affect the scope of the rule – SOCMA members have been understandably hesitant to begin investing significant sums of money to comply with a rule that is still a work in progress in many significant respects. EPA will be hard pressed to finalize the revised rule before the compliance date and, in fairness, should postpone the deadline until well after that rule is published.
The new proposal confirmed the rule’s apparent requirement that Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) inspections must occur while equipment is in Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) service – another concern for SOCMA members. This language is especially problematic for batch processors, who may only operate equipment in HAP service for very short periods of time. It could be highly difficult for these companies to accomplish the required inspections during those narrow windows of time, especially since many of their facilities have limited operating personnel. EPA did express a willingness to change this requirement, depending on the comments it receives, which SOCMA appreciates.
SOCMA will continue to urge the EPA to extend the compliance deadline, and intends to submit comments to express our remaining concerns.
SOCMA is the only U.S. based trade association dedicated solely to the batch, custom, and specialty chemical industry. SOCMA has a global membership of more than 200 companies. In the US, members employ more than 100,000 workers across the country and produce 50,000 products valued at $60 billion annually. For more information, visit www.socma.com.