This past week marked the close of the public comment period for a significant proposed state Department of Environmental Protection’s air quality regulation, “Additional RACT Requirements for Major Sources of NOx and VOCs for the 2015 Ozone NAAQS,” informally called RACT III. The PA Chamber filed comments to the Environmental Quality Board, urging clarification of key terms and consideration of the major successes the prior RACT rule. Per the 2008 ozone standards, the prior RACT rule achieved key flexibility provisions for the nearly 500 industrial facilities impacted by the rule – ranging from power plants to iron and steel manufacturers to pulp and paper facilities.
The rules affect industrial sources currently in operation. Federal and state air quality law directs DEP to enforce cost-effective, technologically feasible regulations on these sources, in order to continue to progress towards statewide attainment of federal National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone (which currently stand at 75 ppb). The Chamber’s comments noted that since the finalization of RACT II, the state is measuring attainment for the 2015 ozone standard.
Of significant concern to the regulated community is DEP’s proposal to shift compliance periods for a 30-day average to a daily limit for sources with continuous emissions monitoring systems for NOx. The Chamber’s comments note that this approach would place many facilities at risk of non-compliance with no meaningful way to achieve the daily limit, owing to the fact that any facility that may shutdown or start-up frequently (such as to change its manufacturing process, conduct repairs or in response to electricity market dynamics) will see its emission control systems operate at decreased efficiency. The Chamber also requested clarification on a number of key terms and definitions and a more thorough examination of costs and benefits.
DEP’s final RACT III rulemaking is expected to be published as final in the spring of 2022.
An op-ed in the Harrisburg Patriot-News/PennLive from PA Chamber Government Affairs Director Kevin Sunday responded to the outlet’s coverage of a wildly misleading NGO report on air quality. The op-ed notes that, due in part to industry investing billions in low- and zero-carbon emission projects, the state has seen massive reduction in industrial emissions of SOx (-91 percent), NOx (-46 percent) and PM 2.5 (-41 percent), with a seven-fold reduction in air quality alerts for unhealthy ozone levels.
The op-ed closes by stating that environmental activism has impeded expanded energy infrastructure in the region, resulting in energy security risks and an increased reliance on higher-emitting fuels and imported Russian gas.