The Clean Air Act (CAA)

Air pollution has been an important issue in the United States for quite some time. However, it has only really been addressed over the past 40-50 years by the US Government. The first efforts at regulating air quality (1950s) were at the community levels – Pittsburg, Cincinnati and Los Angeles. The federal effort began in 1955 with the first national air pollution control policy known as the Air Pollution Control Act (APCA). This law was enacted after epidemiological studies showed the effects of air pollution on human health to be far greater than originally thought. The (APCA) provided the Public Health Service (PHS) of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare with limited authority to conduct research on air quality and to provide assistance to state and local governments. Amendments to this Act followed in 1960 and 1962.

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The Clean Air Act of 1963 gave the PHS more authority to intervene in interstate problematic areas. However, the process, under this Act proved to be extremely slow in developing standards while at the same time air quality was continuing to get worse. As such, the Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1970 was enacted along with the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which was tasked to “adopt uniform ambient air quality standards” to protect human health across the US. As part of this 1970 Act, the EPA was given significant federal enforcement authority and it was directed to work with each individual States in developing (their own) “implementation plans” to achieve these air quality standards. This Act and its Amendments in 1977 and 1990, regulates air emissions from both stationary and mobile sources in order to reduce the risks of health hazards.

In 1970 the main underlying argument against this Act was that it was going to hinder economic growth and put American’s out of work. During the 1970s, the US suffered an economic recession – interest rates and inflation were both high. There also was a shortage of oil. At the same time, the counter argument was that the CAA would ultimately save companies money and at the same time benefits the economy and the quality of air that we breathe. The counter argument held firm. Over the next 20 years, this Act forced us to become more innovative and use our technological advancements to not only achieve but to exceed the existing air quality standards. Since 1970’s enactment, the CAA has become one of the most successful environmental and health protection Acts. This Act, much like our Constitution was brilliantly devised. When Congress enacted the CAA, they understood that as technological advances come about, this Act would be flexible enough to be used to address other emerging air pollutants and how those pollutants can be mitigated to protect human health and the environment.

There are six pollution control programs associated with the CAA. 1. The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are levels of air quality amounts/concentrations that the EPA deemed protective of public health. As part of NAAQS, each State has a Plan to establish and enforce emissions. The requirements of these plans are found in 40 CFR 51. 2. The Standards of Performance for New Stationary Sources (NSPS) are standards that regulate pollutants from new or modified sources. The current NSPS standards are found in 40 CFR 60. 3. National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPS) is the part of the CAA that addresses air toxics. The Amendments in 1990 refined these requirements. 4. Acidic Rain or Deposition occurs when emissions of sulfur dioxide and/or oxides of nitrogen impact rain, snow etc… The federal standards for acid rain can be found in 40 CFR 73-78. 5. Ozone Protection is important as it provides a protective shield for earth by removing harmful UV light. Many chlorofluorohydrocarbons (CFCs) directed deplete our ozone layers and as such the 1990 Amendments to the CAA set up a schedule whereby CFCs would no longer be produced in the US. 6. Air permit programs are specific program requirements for all of industry to include the oil and gas industry.

Air permits are broken down into two types of programs. They are either a new or proposed projects that require review of potential pollutants. The Permit Program is known as New Source Review (NSR). The second type of air permit is an Operating Permit. This is for ongoing operations that emit air pollutants. The State or EPA will in each case determine what the permit limit is for each pollutant. These regulations can be found in 40 CFR 51-52 and for operating permits they are found under 40 CFR 70. An important aspect of all operating permits is that they must determine what methods that they will use to ensure compliance with each air pollution control requirement. Certification is required annually for these operating permits.

So how do these permits work? The operators of the facilities use emissions monitoring devices or may involve the maintenance of records which detail their operating conditions that demonstrate compliance. Some specific examples of what are used are: operating hours, sulfur content in fuel, combustion temperature of unit incinerating…. I work part time for Kinder Morgan in the Environmental, Health and Safety Division. We have a Title V air permit. This operating permit is huge and the requirements are quite significant. In order to assure that we are in compliance, we have one air person who manages all of the permitting requirements. She calculates monthly what our emissions are relative to all of the pumps; tanks; ancillary piping and fugitive emissions. She submits monthly, semiannual and annual permits as per the Louisiana Administrative Code (LAC) and their permit.

The Clean Water Act (CWA)

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act was enacted in 1948 and was the first major law set up to address water pollution. In 1972, this Act was amended and became what is known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). The 1972 Amendments set the framework up for regulating “pollutant discharges” into waters of the US. The CWA established the “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System” (NPDES) and can be found under 40 CFR 122. This very important part of the CWA is the primary means of measuring and eliminating harmful pollutants from getting into our rivers and streams (also known as receiving streams).

The initial objective of the CWA was to restore the quality of water across the US. The secondary and longer term objective is, once restored, sustaining that water quality for further generations. Much like the epidemiological studies referenced in the CAA, many rivers, lakes, streams and even oceans were being polluted prior to 1972 and images of needles, syringes (medical waste), plastics, toxics, garbage… were all being found at our nation’s water ways and shores and as such people were getting seriously ill. As such, the CWA along with EPA’s management and enforcement of water quality standards helped pave the way for significant water quality improvement.

The CWA has been amended several times over the past forty plus years. One of the important set of amendments was the Water Quality Act of 1987 which was established to address storm water discharges. The basis of the CWA was that no one has a right to pollute the waters of the US and anyone wishing to discharge pollutants must obtain a water permit. These permits limit (hence “elimination”) the types of water discharged and the concentrations of the pollutants that are in the water.

In 1970 the main underlying argument against the CWA was that it also was going to hinder economic growth and put the American worker out of work. At the same time, the counter argument was that the CWA would ultimately save companies money and at the same time benefit the economy and the quality of water we use recreationally to include drinking. This counter argument held firm and not only has the economy over time not been impacted, but water quality across the US has significantly improved. Over the next 20 years, this Act forced us to become more innovative and use our technological advancements to not only achieve but to exceed the existing water quality standards. Since 1970’s enactment, the CWA has become one of the most successful environmental and health protection Acts.

The CWA allows individual states to request authorization from the EPA to manage water permits. The EPA must approve the state’s request to manage the permitting program. Title IV of the CWA gives the EPA the authority to issue water permits. Section 402 of the CWA describes the water permitting system. At the plant that I work at, we have a LPDES permit (Louisiana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System which can be found under Title 33 LAC IX. 2515). This permit allows us to discharge both process and storm water to the New River. Since New River (our plant is located in Geismar, La off of Hwy 73 and 75) is “impaired” according to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

The CWA is based on four principles: 1. Waters of the US; 2. Discharge Permits; 3. Technology based controls and 4. Water quality based controls. Waters of the US – anyone wishing to discharge pollutants must have a permit. The discharge permits limit the composition and concentrations being discharged from the facility. Some permit conditions require specific levels of controls based on technology and cost. And lastly, any limits or control higher than the minimum federal requirements must be based on the receiving water quality.

So, how do these permits work? The LPDES permit that I am familiar with requires that we sample our storm water retention pond each time we discharge to New River. As stated previously, New River is “impaired” for both dissolved oxygen and biochemical Oxygen demand. As such, Kinder Morgan is required to oxygenate (add air to the ponds) the water before it is allowed to discharge the water. Our site handles methanol for our customer (Methanex Corp). Because of this one product, we sample for pH (limits 6.0-9.0); total organic carbon (TOC limit is 50 ppm); Oil and grease (limit is 15 ppm); total suspended solids (limit is 50 ppm). The results of the monthly testing are submitted to the LDEQ electronically on a “Discharge Monitoring Report” (DMR) by the 28th of the following month. Should any of these analytical parameters exceed their permit limits; then the LDEQ requires more sampling and there could be fines and penalties if these are exceeded. Kinder Morgan uses a local laboratory (Gulf Coast Analytical). I called them and they told me the pHs are taken with a pH meter (on site); the TOC is run on a Shimatzu 5050 IR analyzer; TSS is run based on weight using a scale and microwave to get rid of the water to see how much sediment is left and oil and grease is extracted using a Freon type material and then weighed.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 is the primary legislation that governs the control of hazardous waste management. It is governed by the EPA under Subtitle I and was passed by Congress in order to address the increasing problems the US faced with the multitude of waste streams being mismanaged. This Act has also been referred to as “cradle to grave” meaning if you generated the hazardous waste you are responsible for that waste to the end of time (its ultimate destruction). RCRA is a set of Amendments to the Solid Waste Act of 1965. RCRA was revised in 1980 and again in 1984 due to its complexity. RCRA’s frame work is unique in that the corresponding regulations are written without reference to specific types of industries. As such, the hazardous waste generator is responsible for the hazard identification, how the material will be transported, treated, stored and disposed of. Since 1984 RCRA was amended twice: 1992 – Federal Facility Compliance Act and 1996 – Land Disposal Program Flexibility Act.

Under RCRA, States have the option of developing and managing their own hazardous waste programs; however, those programs must be at least as stringent as the federal requirements. As a result, those states that do manage this effort are actually more stringent. RCRA also sets the frame work for the management of non-hazardous waste streams as well.

In the 1940s the Hooker Chemical Co., disposed of large quantities of chemical waste (hazardous) in what is referred to as Love Canal. The ultimate result was disastrous and directly impacted children who swan in the canal and a school that was to be built on top of the closed canal. The RCRA Program is paramount in assuring that highly toxic waste materials are appropriately managed and disposed of. Though this is not the only Act that would eliminate the Love Canal disaster from occurring again, it is one that assures wastes are properly managed. At the time of RCRA, there was limited to no underlying arguments against the Act. The only arguments were the details on how all of this would be managed and regulated going forward; hence all the amendments.

The permitting process here is divided into two parts: “Parts A and Part B”. Part A Permits are interim permits for existing facilities. These facilities will eventually be required to apply for full permits (Part B). New sites must apply for both Part A and B Permits. The corresponding regulations are 40 CFR 264 and 270.
So, how do these permits work? The first task is for the generator to determine if the waste has hazardous characteristics (ignitable, reactive, corrosive and/or toxic). These are defined in 40 CFR 261. For some of Kinder Morgan’s waste streams, we take samples for a complete set of analyses call TCLP (toxic characteristic leaching procedure). This requires numbers gas chromatograms and other lab equipment to analyze for all of the specific waste characteristics just mentioned plus individual chemical concentrations. There are explicit rules, once this is done, on how to handle, store, transport and even treat this waste (40 CFR 260, 263 – 265…). The permits simply govern and communicate to the regulating entity what the waste streams are, where they are and how they will be managed. At one of the plants that I work at, we handle all wastes through a Program with manifests (hazardous and non-hazardous). A copy of the manifest follows the waste throughout its transported life, a copy is retained at our site, a copy goes to the State of Louisiana and at the end a copy is sent back to us (generator) so we can show the entire loop of how that specific waste was disposed and treated (managed). We do the same with non-hazardous waste as well.

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA)

This Act is actually part of a larger Act known as Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) which was enacted in 1986. EPRCA was authorized by Title III of SARA and it is a “free standing law/Act”. This portion of SARA was enacted due to concerns associated with handling and storing toxic materials. More specifically, it was designed to protect communities. It also followed closely to the 1984 Bhopal disaster where there was an accidental release that significantly impacted over 50,000 people. Unlike the other Acts above, this one requires specific interaction between federal, state, community and industry. The intent of EPCRA is to improve the “community’s” understanding or awareness and to have access to what toxic chemicals are being stored at each facility. It also requires the facilities to report annually (Tier IIs) what toxic materials they have on site along with its quantities and approximate locations. Each State, according to EPRCA must have a State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) which is subdivided down to districts which are referred to as Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC). There are many different emergency response teams that are involved with the LEPC – fire fighters, multiple plant and facility personnel, community groups, government representatives and even the media. Again, the goal is to enhance communication and educate the public (community) as it is their “Right to know” what is being handled (chemical hazards) in their communities and what planning efforts take place to prevent and mitigate accidental releases from occurring. But even one step further is that if an event were to occur, what plans are in place to minimize that event. Applicability to this Act is simple: The EPA has published a list of “extremely hazardous substances” (EHS) along with a threshold (in pounds) of those substances (40 CFR 355 – Appendix A and B). If that substance can be found on site above the threshold for any given day, then that site/facility is “covered” or subject to EPCRA. That site must have a representative who is the “emergency response coordinator” and who works directly with the LEPC.

When the Bhopal incident occurred, the US Government took a close look at whether an event like this could occur in the US. Surprisingly, the chemical (methyl isocyanate) that was released there (by Union Carbide) was also being manufactured in West Virginia. The Government also determined that in a five year period leading up to this event, there were 6,928 chemical accidents in the US. As such, there really was not much opposition in trying to find a better way to educate all involved (federal, state, local, communities and even industry). The push back or underlying arguments were really on the “how”. How could you effectively get all of these entities to work together? EPCRA was the answer and after 30 years the number of chemical accidents, though not completed eliminated, they are significantly reduced.

The specific Programs associated with this Act are not permits, but rather specific reports which are shared with the communities, LEPC and emergency response personnel. EPRCA is unique in that the Program requirements are related to documenting, notifying and reporting information annually. These Programs are divided into: Emergency Planning (EP); Emergency Release Notification (ERN); Community Right to Know Reporting Requirements (RTK) and Toxic Chemical Release Inventory Reporting (TRI).

The EP portion specifically addresses the State and Local Government’s responsibilities – for them to be prepared to respond to specific types of chemical releases in their areas of responsibility (State and then Districts). The ERN is required when a specific amount of the EHS is released. This specific amount is known as a Reportable Quantity (RQ). If that RQ is exceeded (again, typically in pounds), then the facility must notify the LEPC and SERC and follow that up with a written notification. At the Kinder Morgan plants that I work at, we notify the National Response Center (NRC). This is an 800 number, physically located in Washington DC and managed by the USCG. The call is recorded and the details associated with the release are reported (name of chemical, location, if it is an EHS, quantity, if it is released to air, land or water, medical requirements, contact person…). The RTK portion of this Act requires the facilities to have Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for hazardous chemicals. OSHA requires this under its Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200). The RTK also requires: inventory reporting by March 1 of each year on two forms (Tier I and II). The TRI is required and managed by EPA. This reporting is filed on a “Form R” and is submitted annually to EPA and LDEQ (here in Louisiana) by July 1 of each year. Here again, all of this information is readily available to the public.

So, how does this Program work? It actually is very involved and requires multiple people from many different agencies, the public and the individual facilities to work together to make this Program (40 CFR 370) effective. Specifically, at Kinder Morgan, we participate in monthly LEPC meetings which are led by the LEPC along with all the companies (that EPCRA is applicable to) and discuss all types of events (this month was hurricane preparedness). Note that the local community and their representatives are invited to this public forum. Also, each of the Kinder Morgan sites have a written Emergency Response Plan whereby monthly drills are conducted (to include neighboring facilities, the LEPC, LDEQ…) and all required reporting discussed above are submitted.


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