The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accepted guidance from NSSGA to limit the negative effect that natural events can have on operators’ air permits. Several of the NSSGA comments submitted to EPA on the proposed rule were reflected in the final rule which clarifies EPA’s treatment of exceptional events. Exceptional events are unusual or naturally occurring events that include dust storms, forest fires and other “uncontrollable” occurrences that could impact the Natural Ambient Air Quality Standards for every state or local air agency.
“We appreciate that EPA was willing to listen to the valid concerns of our industry on their proposed rule,” said Emily Coyner, NSSGA director of environmental services.
The rule directly affects how states and EPA manage air data, but a poor exceptional events policy would indirectly harm members if states impose harsh air permit conditions that could impact production or require expensive additional controls. This rule is particularly important to Western states where dust storms and forest fires can lead to exceedance of national ambient air quality standards.
The rule still requires more effort from state agencies than necessary, but the treatment of windblown dust is more reasonable, according to Coyner. EPA has clarified that windblown dust events are natural events and compliance with existing, approved state control plans and permits are sufficient. These changes clarify the rule from previous versions, where it was not clear if the events could impact member permits through revised state requirements.
NSSGA also urged EPA to work more closely with the states during this process, because states have criticized EPA for lack of consultation in the rulemaking process.