Ohio EPA recently received a letter from U.S. EPA’s Region V requesting justification for changes made to the State’s air pollution control plan. The changes to the State plan came about as a result of reform legislation passed by the Ohio Legislature in 2006. Much has recently been made about the letter sent by U.S. EPA. There has been two articles (article 1 and article 2) by Spencer Hunt in the Columbus Dispatch discussing the letter. Also, there was recently an Editorial in the Toledo Blade chastising the Agency for being easy on "polluters" and for failing to timely submit the required information to U.S. EPA.
Environmental groups have strongly criticized the portion of the legislation that allows smaller facilities (less than 10 tons per year) to avoid installing best available technology (BAT) and install reasonably available control technology (RACT) in its place. This change has been described as weakening the protection of Ohio’s environment. In reality, it at worst will men minimal increases of pollution from these small sources. As discussed below, increases that are more than offset by other programs.
I am familiar with these arguments having been at the center of the storm during the legislative debates over S.B. 265. The editorial and comments strongly criticizing these changes seem to ignore some fundamental facts about Ohio’s regulation of air pollution.
The criticism ignores the fact that federal air quality standards are getting more stringent, not weakening. Most notably, U.S. EPA recently strengthened the ozone standard. Ohio still must meet the federal air quality standards. The state legislation (S.B. 265) provided more flexibility in choosing how to comply. Bottom line, Ohio’s air quality has improved and will continue to improve.
So what was the purpose of the legislation? Did you know Ohio regulates over 70,000 air sources while its neighbor, Michigan, only regulates 7,000? This is not because we have so many more sources in Ohio, its because we decided long ago to regulate much smaller sources of air pollution in the state. With Ohio’s struggling economy, it makes sense to be more efficient and effective in how Ohio met federal air quality standards.
Maybe this puts the 10 tpy threshold in perspective-the brand new permit for the AMP Ohio Coal fired power plant allows it to emit 3,194 tpy of NOx and 6,820 tons of SO2. That is one source. The equivalent of at least 300 or 600 smaller sources taking advantage of the 10 tpy exemption. (Remember sources less than 10 tpy still must have controls, they just don’t have to install more costly controls).
Even when the AMP Ohio facility comes on line, total emissions from Ohio’s power plants will be drastically reduced. The total emission budget for Ohio power plants under the federal CAIR program in Ohio is 180,677 tpy of NOx which will be reduced to 95,556 tpy of NOx in 2015. The reduction of some 85,000 tons of NOx will more than offset any insignificant increase attributable to small sources installing less costly controls. And that is just one major reduction on-the-books, more reductions will also be forthcoming.