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EPA to expand hazardous air pollutant reporting

Proposed rules broaden who reports hazardous air pollutants and how often

by Leigh Krietsch Boerner
July 27, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 25


Image of an oil refinery with multiple smokestacks letting of clouds of gray smoke into the sky.
Credit: Shutterstock
The US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new rules to monitor hazardous air pollutants.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new rules designed to keep a closer eye on potentially toxic or carcinogenic air pollutants. The rules would require that some emitters of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), compounds that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other harm, report their emissions directly to the EPA every year.

The change is part of an EPA push to gather missing data on pollution hotspots and what groups of people might be exposed to harmful air pollution. “When we have the most recent, most accurate data on air toxics and other emissions, we can improve our identification of areas where people may be at risk from pollution, develop solutions and help ensure everyone has clean air to breathe,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan says in a statement.

The new rules, which wouldn’t go into effect until 2027, are targeted at the nearly 130,000 facilities nationwide identified as “point sources.” The EPA calls facilities point sources if they are major sources of air pollution according to the Clean Air Act, or if they are smaller sources but put out certain toxic compounds above a threshold amount.

Some sources not in a permanent place, such as floating oil rigs, will also have to report their emissions as point sources. The proposed rule targets HAPs, defined by the EPA as 188 contaminants or classes of contaminants, including dioxins, benzene, chromium, and perchloroethylene. These compounds fall under rules separate from those that cover criteria pollutants, which include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

According to the EPA, current rules for reporting HAPs are inconsistent across the US. Some states and tribal nations already report HAP emissions to the EPA, but this is not a requirement. This disparity in data gives the agency a patchy picture of where air pollution is a potential health hazard.



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