Upcoming Changes to Maryland's Opacity Regulations

On November 1, 2016, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) held a stakeholder meeting to discuss plans to update the Maryland visible emissions standards for fuel burning sources.  A fuel burning source as defined in Title 26, Chapter 11, Section 01.01B(17) of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR is any boiler that has the primary function of heating air, water, or any other medium through indirect heat transfer from the burning of fuels, or a stationary internal combustion engine or stationary combustion turbine used to produce mechanical or electrical energy.

MDE's proposed changes are in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) June 12, 2015 action regarding startup, shutdown and malfunction (SSM) events.  Based on this action, EPA notes that 36 states, including Maryland, are substantially inadequate in meeting the Clean Air Act requirements for visible emissions and must revise their State Implementation Plans (SIPs) accordingly.  Specifically for Maryland, COMAR provides operating time limit exemptions for fuel burning equipment required to operate a continuous opacity monitor (COM) which do not meet the EPA requirements.  MDE plans to repeal this section of the regulation to meet EPA's SSM SIP policy.  By repealing COMAR the remaining portions of the regulation can be approved into the Maryland SIP.  At the moment, MDE is not planning on amending the visible emission standards for fuel burning equipment which do not utilize a COM although COMAR includes SSM provisions.

If affected sources (i.e., fuel burning equipment with a COM) require an alternative emission limit to meet EPA's SSM requirements once COMAR is repealed, those sources can submit plans discussing the alternative limits for approval by MDE and EPA.  As part of the SIP Call, EPA included recommendations for approvable alternative requirements that meet the Clean Air Act conditions, as well as seven criteria for developing emissions limitations in SIP provisions that apply during startup and shutdown.  In order to be SIP-approved by EPA, an SSM policy must meet the following seven criteria:

  • Limited to specific, narrowly defined source categories using specific control strategies.
  • Use of the control strategy is technically infeasible during startup or shutdown periods.
  • Frequency and duration of operation in startup or shutdown mode are minimized to the greatest extent practicable.
  • State analyzes the potential worst-case emissions that could occur during startup and shutdown based on the applicable alternative emission limitation.
  • All possible steps are taken to minimize the impact of emissions during startup and shutdown.
  • At all times, the facility is operated in a manner consistent with good practice for minimizing emissions.
  • Owner or operator's actions during startup and shutdown periods are documented by properly signed operating logs or other relevant evidence.

At the stakeholder meeting in November, MDE encouraged facilities to draft plans, including regulatory language, for alternative limits and control options that would allow the facility to meet EPA's criteria if the visible emission limits in COMAR will be unattainable after the repeal of COMAR  Once reviewed, these plans could be included as technical support in the final regulation.  If a facility does not submit a plan for alternative limits to MDE, the facility will be expected to meet the visible emissions limits set forth in the existing rule at all times including SSM events.

The current timeline for amending the regulations and submitting an updated SIP to EPA is as follows:

  • March 13, 2017 – Present to Air Quality Control Advisory Council (AQCAC)
  • June 2017 – Notice of Proposed Actions published in Maryland Register
  • July 2017 – Public Hearing
  • September 2017 – Regulation Effective
  • October 2017 – Submit State Plan to EPA

During the stakeholder meeting, MDE also commented briefly on changes to COMAR – Continuous Emissions Monitoring Requirements.  The rule will be amended to update the applicability and general requirements for continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS).  As part of the amendment, the following additional sources will be required to operate CEMS:

  • Municipal Waste Combustors (MWCs) with a Potential to Emit (PTE) of 25 tons per year (tpy) nitrogen oxides (NOx) in urban areas (NOx CEMS)
  • MWCs with PTE of 100 tpy NOx in rural areas (NOx CEMS)
  • Sintering plants [volatile organic compounds (VOC) CEMS]
  • Yeast manufacturing installations (VOC CEMS)
  • Portland cement manufacturing plants (NOx CEMS)

Trinity Consultants has a wide variety of experience in permitting and compliance in Maryland.  If you need assistance reviewing the proposed regulatory changes, assessing the impact of the regulatory amendments and appeals, or drafting plans for alternative limits and control techniques that allow your facility to meet the EPA's SSM requirements, please contact Trinity's office in Frederick, MD at (240) 379-7490.