EPA Issues Permitting Guidance for Greenhouse Gases

Beginning January 2, 2011, Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions will trigger substantial permitting actions by numerous facilities under the Clean Air Act.  To assist permitting agencies and applicants with consistently interpreting the GHG requirements of the PSD and Title V permitting programs, EPA released a variety of GHG permitting guidance and resources on November 10, 2010:

  • EPA’s “PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for GHGs,” which provides general guidance for GHG permitting considerations including the evaluation of Best Available Control Technology (BACT) for GHG emissions
  • White Papers on GHG Control Measures, which focus on sector-specific BACT considerations for industries with high GHG emissions
  • Enhancements to the Control Technology Clearinghouse (i.e., the RBLC), which allows access to GHG control technology determinations issued by air permitting agencies
  • GHG Mitigation Strategies Database, which includes performance and cost data on current and developing GHG control strategies
  • GHG Permitting Action Team, which identifies members from each EPA region that serve as the primary contact for assisting permitting authorities with responding to GHG-related questions
"PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for GHGs"

EPA’s “PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for GHGs” presents a general overview of the PSD and Title V programs, identifies relevant guidance issued by EPA for other regulated air pollutants, and provides recommendations for meeting the permitting requirements for GHGs.  This guidance document includes numerous examples regarding the applicability of the PSD and Title V programs and the assessment of BACT for GHG emissions. 

In general, EPA’s guidance focuses on the same five-step, top-down BACT evaluation process that has been used historically for other regulated air pollutants.  In addition to typical emission unit-specific control technologies, EPA provides guidance on considering options that improve facility-wide energy efficiency as part of the BACT assessment.  Additionally, EPA’s guidance describes GHG-specific considerations for each step of the control technology evaluation.  For example, EPA acknowledges that Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technology is unlikely to be an economically feasible BACT option, but that the combustion of biomass may be considered BACT after accounting for environmental, energy, and economic considerations (as well as government programs that promote the use of biomass).

Furthermore, various supporting materials are included in EPA’s general guidance document.  Flow charts are provided to illustrate the applicability of PSD permitting requirements for new and modified sources of GHGs, and technical resources are identified for estimating GHG emissions and evaluating GHG control technologies. 

White Papers on GHG Control Measures

White papers were issued for the following industrial sectors:

  • Electric Generating Units
  • Large Industrial/Commercial/Institutional Boilers
  • Pulp and Paper
  • Cement
  • Iron and Steel Industry
  • Refineries
  • Nitric Acid Plants

The sector-specific white papers provide basic technical information about the industry’s GHG emissions and identify available and emerging control technologies for reducing those emissions.  Although these documents do not define BACT for a given industrial sector, the information provided for a given sector should be used by permitting agencies and applicants to perform the required case-by-case BACT assessments for the corresponding source categories.

Opportunity for Comment

EPA is providing a two week public comment period to allow feedback and comment on any aspect of the GHG permitting guidance that contains technical errors or would benefit from additional clarification.  EPA will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing the new guidance and the public comment period.  Information on EPA’s GHG permitting guidance can be found at http://www.epa.gov/nsr/ghgpermitting.html

If you have specific questions regarding this guidance, please contact Maren Seibold at Trinity Consultants (253-867-5600, mseibold@trinityconsultants.com) or your local Trinity office at (800) 229-6655.