Air Quality Rules Memo

To:               Air Quality Stakeholders

From:          HEAL Utah, Western Resource Advocates and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment

Re:               Petition for Rulemaking: Emission Limits, Offsets and Testing Frequency

Date:           February 22, 2016

On March 2, the Air Quality Board will have its first opportunity to weigh in on a trio of proposed air quality rules put forth by a coalition of environmental groups. Representatives of the groups began meeting with board members and other stakeholders last summer, before presenting the rules to the Board during its October meeting.

We then formally petitioned the Board in January, under Utah Administrative Code R15-2. Public Petitioning for Rulemaking, the Board now has to either deny our petition or to put the rules out for public comment.

We know that aspects of these rules might meet resistance from certain stakeholders, but we are confident they are worthy of a robust public debate. We believe the best path forward is to put these rules out for comment, to get feedback from the public, from air quality experts and, of course, from industry itself.

Below we will share more detailed information about the three rules, which did change slightly during the drafting or our petitions. First, some context.


In late 2014, Utah finalized a critical document – its “Moderate” State Implementation Plan (SIP) to control PM2.5, the fine particles that reach such dangerously high levels during our wintertime inversions. The plan included a wide range of strategies to control pollution, targeting everything from consumers to small businesses and industry.

As the plan was developed, several key stakeholders urged the state Division of Air Quality (DAQ) to make changes to strengthen parts of the SIP that focused on point sources.

One such voice was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which offered a detailed series of suggestions to Utah officials on how they could improve the plan and bring the Wasatch Front into attainment with the PM2.5 standard more quickly. Similar suggestions came from Utah-based environmental organizations, such as HEAL Utah, Western Resource Advocates and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

The Division did incorporate several central parts of stakeholder feedback in the 2014 SIP, better addressing SSM (startup, shutdown and malfunction) emissions and accelerating several deadlines.

However, the state chose not to implement several other key recommendations that EPA and environmentalists had urged.

The environmental groups who have been part of the SIP process for years thus decided to petition the Air Quality Board to pass several key rules. We believe these proposals will improve our emissions control regimen and boost public faith and participation in the SIP and the permitting of the point sources which contribute to our failure to attain the PM2.5 standards.

Below are brief descriptions of each of our proposed rules. To clarify, the rules are intended to apply to “SIP sources,” those 28 point sources that the Division and Board addressed in the 2014 SIP.  As Utah develops its “serious SIP,” these three provisions will also apply to all the additional point sources encompassed by that plan.

Rule 1: Prevent Emissions Spikes

  • Many of the limits on point source pollution in the SIP and in permits do not seek to control emissions over 24-hour periods, even though Utah’s PM2.5 challenge is of course a “short term” problem.
  • EPA repeatedly raised this issue in its comments, wondering “how averaging times longer than 24 hours can represent RACT in a plan that is intended to attain 24-hour NAAQS.” It added elsewhere that the longer-term that Utah mostly uses allow “significantly higher short-term emissions…”
  • Our rule, simply, imposes a 24-hour emissions limit on SIP emission units by requiring that emission limits be averaged over a 24-hour (or shorter) period, in addition to current, longer averaging periods.
  • We foresee that more frequent stack testing and use of CEMs (see Rule 3) plus heightened record-keeping, will allow the Division to ensure that point sources meet a 24-hour emissions limit.

Rule 2: Lower “Offset” Threshold

  • The Clean Air Act already requires “offsets” for proposed emissions increases from stationary sources in nonattainment areas to ensure that overall emissions do not increase.
  • Utah years ago lowered the “thresholds” at which offsets are required for PM10 and PM10 precursors, recognizing that a failure to do so would lead to creeping growth in emissions.
  • We modeled this rule after the current rules for PM10 offsets and therefore lowered the thresholds at which emission increases must be offset by emission decreases.
  • For a planned modification to an existing “large” facility – defined as having the potential to emit at least 70 tons per year of PM2.5 or PM2.5 precursors – our rule lowers the offset threshold to:

o   5 tpy for PM2.5

o   20 tpy for PM2.5 precursors

  • For a modification to an existing facility having the potential to emit less than 70 tons per year of PM2.5 or PM2.5 precursors, our rule imposes an offset threshold of:

o   25 tpy for PM2.5

o   40 tpy for PM2.5 precursors

  • For a new facility that would be located in a nonattainment area, our rules lowers the offset threshold to:

o   25 tpy for PM2.5

o   40 tpy for precursors

  • Our rule also clarifies the mechanism for trading offsets among pollutants

Rule 3: Boost Stack Testing Frequency

  • Utah statute (R307-165-2) requires stack testing “at least once every five years”
  • Practice varies and can be more frequent, such as every three years
  • The EPA repeatedly questioned whether this was sufficient: “We are concerned with stack test frequencies longer than one year. Please explain why these test frequencies are sufficient to ensure continuous compliance with the limits.”
  • Our rule:

o   Requires CEMs (Continuous Emission Monitoring systems) to monitor SO2, NOX or filterable PM, unless the source, with approval of the Division Director and public input, establishes that CEMs is infeasible.

o   For any monitoring technique other than CEMs, the rule requires the Division Director, after public notice and comment, to demonstrate that the alternative method is sufficient to assure continuous compliance with the relevant emission limit.

o   Where the approved monitoring method involves stack testing, mandates that stack testing occur at least once a year unless a further demonstration of infeasibility is made.

o   Spells out criteria that a SIP source can utilize make its case that either CEMs or annual stack testing is not feasible

o   Spells out the criteria which the Director must consider to show that a monitoring method other than CEMs is adequate to ensure continuous compliance with the relevant emission limitation.

We again appreciate your attention to these proposals. If you have any questions, please contact Matt Pacenza of HEAL Utah (matt@healutah.org) or Joro Walker of Western Resource Advocates (joro.walker@westernresources.org).