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Environment

EPA changes emissions plan requirement

April 10, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 15

Although companies are still required to maintain written plans for limiting releases of hazardous air pollutants during start-ups, shutdowns, and malfunctions (SSMs), they no longer have to follow the plans, under a March 31 EPA rule. This change means that deviation from a plan no longer constitutes a violation of the Clean Air Act, a move backed by industry. Facilities that diverge from their plans during SSMs and exceed their allowable limits for emissions of air toxics will have to report to regulators the steps they took to minimize the releases, according to the rule. EPA says it expects few facilities to depart from their plans, with deviations possible for unanticipated types of malfunctions, certain emergencies, and safety considerations or when emissions can be minimized better by taking actions other than those in the plan. In addition, the rule changes public access to SSM plans that are not already in EPA's files. Federal, state, or local regulators will have discretion-but are not required-to obtain a plan from a facility when the public asks for it. Any plans made available to the public will have confidential business information removed.

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