EPA Proposes To Strengthen 2020 Air Toxics Regulation

October 02, 2023
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to strengthen a 2020 Clean Air Act rule by ensuring industrial facilities that emit large amounts of hazardous air pollution cannot increase emissions when reclassifying from a “major source” of emissions to an “area source.” The proposed amendments to the “Reclassification of Major Sources as Area Sources Under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act” rule would require those sources that choose to reclassify from major source status to area source status to establish federally enforceable permit conditions that will better protect public health from hazardous air pollution.
These permit conditions must contain safeguards to prevent emission increases above what would be allowed under a major source emission standard under the Clean Air Act. Facilities would still have the flexibility to pursue innovations in pollution-reduction technologies. The proposed requirements would apply to all sources that choose to reclassify, including any sources which have reclassified since January 25, 2018.
"The EPA is proposing additional safeguards to address emissions of hazardous air pollutants from major industrial sources,” said Joseph Goffman, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation. “Ensuring facilities do not increase emissions of air toxics after being reclassified will help protect communities from air toxics. This proposal will continue to allow facilities to innovate and adopt new ways of reducing emissions of air toxics while maintaining emission reductions after reclassification.”
EPA’s proposal would strengthen the 2020 rule by preventing the potential for increased emissions from reclassifying sources. The proposal would also require limits taken to reclassify from major source to area source to be federally enforceable. This would provide a level playing field for continued enforcement of limits taken to reclassify, and an additional layer of compliance assurance.
In 1995, EPA issued the “Once In, Always In” Policy and determined that any facility subject to major source hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions standards would always remain subject to those standards. The policy was designed to achieve lasting emissions reductions from major sources and ensure continued compliance assurance once air pollution standards for major sources were in place. Under the previous administration, EPA issued a rule that allowed a major source of hazardous air pollutants to reclassify as an area source at any time after agreeing to limit their emissions below the major source thresholds. In response to President Biden’s Executive Order 13990, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis,” EPA reviewed the 2020 rule and determined that there were actions we could take to protect against HAP emissions increases. This proposal would address those concerns and prevent increases of emissions of air toxics after reclassification.
Texas Poultry Processor Endangered Line Workers by Ignoring Unguarded Machinery Hazards
A workplace safety investigation found that a Nixon poultry processor exposed employees to ergonomic hazards, a common industry safety concern and the cause of many injuries to its workers. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates about 50 percent of injuries and illnesses in the poultry processing industry involve musculoskeletal disorders.
After a scheduled inspection on March 15, 2023, under OSHA's Regional Emphasis Program for Poultry Processing Facilities, investigators found that Holmes Foods Inc. violated federal workplace safety regulations when the company did the following:
  • Failed to provide required eye protection.
  • Did not develop procedures to lock out and tagout machines to prevent sudden start-ups.
  • Failed to guard rotating shafts, chains and sprockets.
OSHA also found that Holmes violated OSHA's General Duty Clause by exposing line workers to ergonomic hazards.
"Holmes Foods exposed employees whose jobs require repetitive motions and lifting tasks to recognized workplace hazards that can cause long-term injuries," said OSHA Area Director Monica Munoz in Austin, Texas. "The company must follow federal requirements to protect workers, including those whose work is essential to the region's food supply. We will hold employers accountable when they fail to meet their legal obligations."
The agency has proposed $60,269 in penalties related to five serious violations.
Founded in 1925 and headquartered in Nixon, Holmes Foods Inc. is a family-owned company that raises, processes, packages and distributes ready-to-cook poultry for food service providers and retail deli markets. Holmes Foods employs about 500 workers at its Nixon facility.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Learn how to prevent musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace at https://www.osha.gov/ergonomics.
Chemical Safety Violations Lead to $131,420 Settlement
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced settlements with two companies—Del Mar Food Products Corp. and S. Martinelli & Co.—to resolve claims of Clean Air Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act violations at their Watsonville, Calif., facilities. These federal laws are designed to ensure the safe manufacture, use, storage, and handling of anhydrous ammonia, a toxic substance used as a refrigerant at food and beverage production facilities.
“Anhydrous ammonia is toxic and can threaten workers, first responders and the public, so it’s imperative that facilities using this chemical follow federal requirements to prevent accidents,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “EPA will hold to account companies that don’t comply with environmental laws.”
Del Mar Food Products Corp. utilizes anhydrous ammonia refrigeration systems at its frozen fruit and vegetable production facility in Watsonville. Following a September 2021 inspection and subsequent investigation, EPA identified that the company failed to provide appropriate measures to mitigate risks in the operation of these refrigeration systems, such as ventilation design and calibration of release sensors. As part of the settlement, the company will pay a $131,420 penalty.
Martinelli & Co. produces primarily apple juice, and its two facilities in Watsonville utilize anhydrous ammonia refrigeration systems to refrigerate the company’s juice products. Following a September 2021 inspection and subsequent investigation, EPA identified that the company failed to design and maintain a safe facility and failed to minimize the consequences of an accidental release, including not constructing its ammonia machinery rooms and related equipment to meet safety standards. Although the company has made significant changes, the settlement with EPA includes tasks that the company must complete to come back into compliance with federal regulations, including demonstrating to EPA that fire resistance modifications have been installed and are functioning at one of its facilities. As part of the settlement, the company will also pay a $127,828 penalty. In addition, the company agreed to complete a supplemental environmental project valued at $67,000 to purchase emergency response equipment for the Watsonville Fire Department.
A supplemental environmental project is an environmentally beneficial project or activity that is not required by law, but that a party agrees to undertake as part of the settlement of an enforcement action. Such projects or activities go beyond what could legally be required of the defendant, and secure environmental and/or public health benefits in addition to those achieved by compliance with the law.
EPA’s Clean Air Act Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations work to prevent accidental chemical releases in our communities and the environment. Facilities holding more than a threshold quantity of a regulated substance are required to comply with EPA’s RMP regulations. The regulations require owners or operators of covered facilities to implement a risk management program and to submit a risk management plan to EPA.
Learn more about the Risk Management Program rule.
Georgia Company's Safety Failures Led to Worker Fatality
A Georgia-based concrete pipe manufacturer could have prevented a 19-year-old worker from suffering fatal injuries after a concrete mixer restarted while the teen tried to clean the machine's inside in Cantonment in March 2023.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined two employees of Foley Products Company LLC climbed inside the mixer initially to use a hammer and chisel to chip away hardened concrete. As one of the workers left the mixer, the machine restarted with the other inside.
OSHA inspectors cited the company for willfully exposing workers to crushed-by hazards by allowing them to enter the mixer without making sure to first follow energy-control procedures. The agency also found the company exposed workers to confined spaces hazards by not making sure a safe atmosphere existed inside the mixer before the workers entered and by failing to have an attendant ready to retrieve workers safely. OSHA also determined the company did not make certain workers were trained and that they understood the safe application and removal of energy controls before servicing machines.
Foley Products Company received one willful violation and six serious violations. The company faces $245,546 in proposed penalties.
"Foley Products Company's failure to implement well-known safeguards cost the life of a worker just beginning their adulthood," said OSHA Area Office Director Jose A. Gonzalez in Mobile, Alabama. "This preventable tragedy should serve as a reminder of the importance of complying with safety and health standards, as required by law."
Headquartered in Newnan, Georgia, the precast concrete manufacturer had 30 workers at the Florida job site at the time of the incident. The company employs about 500 workers, serving numerous agencies and municipalities in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA – as Foley Products Company has done – or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Solar Panels Installed in Remote Arctic Community To Power Green Energy Transition
Norway has installed the world’s northernmost ground solar panels in its Svalbard archipelago, a region plunged in round-the-clock darkness all winter.
The pilot project could help remote Arctic communities transition to green energy.
Neatly lined up in six rows in a field, 360 solar panels will on Thursday begin providing electricity to an old shipping radio station, Isfjord Radio, now converted into a base camp for tourists.
The windswept archipelago - also known as Spitsbergen - is located some 1,300 kilometres from the North Pole and is accessible only by boat or helicopter, weather permitting.
"It's what we believe to be the world's northernmost ground-mounted PV (photovoltaic) system," Mons Ole Sellevold, renewable energies technical adviser at state-owned energy group Store Norske, told AFP.
"It's the first time anyone has done it at this scale in the Arctic," he said, his rifle slung over his shoulder in case polar bears turn up.
Another 100 solar panels are positioned on the roof of the radio station - which has until now run on diesel generators - and should cover about half of the site's electricity needs and cut its CO2 emissions.
In summer, the region is bathed in an abundance of sunlight, with a "midnight sun" that never sets.
The solar panels also benefit from the "albedo" effect, the reflective power of snow and ice, as well as low temperatures that improve their efficiency.
On the flipside, the region is plunged into total darkness from early October until mid-February, which makes it impossible for Isfjord Radio to completely give up fossil fuels.
Store Norske is therefore also considering other alternatives, such as wind farms, to further the station's green transition.
The move is motivated by environmental considerations as well as economic factors, with diesel costly to buy and transport, while solar panels are also easy to maintain and do not break down, Sellevold said.
The aim is also to use the installation as a pilot project to see if the technology can be used by some 1,500 other sites or communities in the Arctic that are not hooked up to traditional electricity grids and also need to transition to green energy, he said.
"We want to make Isfjord Radio a test site to ... get an Arctic-proven technology that we can afterwards take to other locations like this," he said.
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