Ship coating operations will no longer get a break from federal emissions limits during start-ups, shutdowns and malfunctions, under an impending rule by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Not only that, but EPA is crafting new emission standards for blasting and welding during ship coating operations.
EPA is revising the National Emission Standards for Shipbuilding and Ship Repair, under a Consent Decree signed Sept. 27 that settles a suit against the agency by the Sierra Club.
The proposed rule was published Dec. 21 in the Federal Register.
EPA estimates that 85 shipbuilding and ship repair facilities are currently subject to the Shipbuilding MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) standard, which was first issued in 1995. The establishments include those that build, repair, repaint, convert and alter ships. The standard covers only the surface coatings operations for these facilities during shipbuilding and ship repair.
In general, the standard limits the coatings that can be used and specifies work practices that minimize spills and emissions. Xylene, ethyl benzene and toluene account for more than 90 percent of the total Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) emissions at these facilities.
Risk and Technology Review
The Sierra Club settlement required EPA to conduct a Risk and Technology Review (RTR) of emissions sources in multiple industries, including shipbuilding. The Clean Air Act requires the agency to review and, if necessary, revise related standards every eight years.
Atlantic Marine Inc. / EPA
|Federal shipyard coatings emissions rules will be in effect 24/7, under the new rules.|
Technology Reviews are used to determine if there have been advances in practices, processes or control technologies since EPA issued the current standard. Residual Risk Assessments are used to determine whether additional emission reductions are warranted to protect human health and the environment.
The decree required EPA to conduct the review of the current standards in each industry and sign either a final rule that promulgated additional residual risk standards or a determination that new standards were not required.
In the case of shipbuilding, the result is the new rule eliminating the emission exemptions during periods of startup, shutdown and malfunction. A malfunction is narrowly defined as “sudden, infrequent, not reasonably preventable, and not caused by poor maintenance and or careless operation.”
Thus, the emission rules would apply to ship coating operations at all times. The change keeps the standards consistent with the District of Columbia Circuit Court’s position on other federal rules.
The RTR must be finalized by October 2011, under the consent decree. An EPA fact sheet outlines the major changes.
The review proposed no other changes for coatings operations in shipbuilding and ship repair. However, the review triggered new concerns by EPA over welding and blasting related to those operations.
EPA now says it will list welding and blasting as a separate major emissions source category and is requesting additional information on the Hazardous Air Pollutants emitted by those activities. The agency is developing a new set of MACT standards for those activities. No timetable has been set for the rule.
The new rule would join 96 air toxic standards (MACT) that require 174 industry sectors to eliminate 1.7 million tons of 187 toxic air pollutants. Congress listed these toxic air pollutants in the Clean Air Act.
The shipbuilding coatings rule was set to be revised in December 2006, when the EPA proposed what it considered minor amendments to the rule. Those amendments were part of a “direct final rule,” which EPA issues when it considers the amendments noncontroversial and unlikely to provoke comment, a spokeswoman said.
If the rule attracts no comments, it is approved as proposed. However, in this case, “EPA did receive comments so we withdrew the direct final rule,” the spokeswoman said Wednesday. “The result is the amendments never took effect, and no further action was taken.”