In comments submitted Dec. 22, NGFA and five other national agribusinesses said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to do more work to justify its proposal concerning the New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) for grain elevators.
The comments were in response to an EPA NSPS rulemaking proposal, which would apply to facilities that commence construction, modification or reconstruction after July 9, 2014.
Under EPA’s NSPS for grain elevators, any commercial grain elevator constructed after 1978 with a permanent storage capacity exceeding 2.5 million bushels is required to comply with stricter air permitting and emission standards. The requirement also applies to any facility that has been modified since 1978 to expand its permanent storage capacity to more than 2.5 million bushels. Also subject to the NSPS are grain storage elevators with a permanent storage capacity exceeding 1 million bushels that are located at wheat flour mills, wet or dry corn mills (manufacturing products for human consumption), rice mills or soybean oil extraction plants. Grain-handling facilities located at feed mills, pet food manufacturing plants, cereal manufacturers, breweries and livestock feedlots are not covered by the current or proposed new NSPS.
According to its official notice, EPA is considering ways to “reduce the testing, monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting burden, while making the proposed requirements less ambiguous and more straightforward for determining compliance.” EPA also proposed a new subpart DDa, and various additions that address changes in grain storage technology that have emerged since 1984, including so-called temporary storage facilities (TSF). The EPA last comprehensively reviewed the NSPS for grain elevators in 1984, at a time when the industry did not use TSFs.
In their comments, NGFA and other organizations commended the EPA for its decision to rescind a Nov. 21, 2007, letter of interpretation under which it had equated temporary storage structures with permanent storage facilities when it determined whether elevators were subject to costly permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act. EPA in its proposed rule notes that it was rescinding that interpretation since it is “now aware that (temporary storage structures) typically handle the grain less time throughout the year than other types of permanent storage facilities, and may require different treatment.”
However, the organizations also said, “more work is needed by the EPA to develop a sustainable proposal. Therefore, the EPA should withdraw the present proposal, with the effect of removing July 9, 2014, as the dividing line between ‘new’ and ‘existing’ facilities, and then repropose once it has established an adequate record.”
In their comments, the organizations state:
- EPA Lacks Authority: EPA lacks authority to retain a NSPS to govern particulate matter emissions from future construction events at grain elevators – i.e., from “affected facilities” on which construction, modification or reconstruction commences after July 9, 2014. EPA’s proposal package lacks a rational basis for concluding that such events present a significant risk to human health and welfare on a national scale.
- Exorbitant Cost: Economic analysis estimates a disproportionately large incremental cost for the proposed control technologies and compliance assurance mechanisms relative to the incremental amount of achievable particle emission reduction. The organizations estimate the annual cost of particle emission reduction is $51,175 per ton and the cost per affected grain elevator is $48,073 per year, which is much more expensive when compared with EPA’s estimates. Thus, the organizations state, “it is clear that the incremental costs, especially those related to the treatment of TSFs are ‘exorbitant’ in relation to the benefits.”
- Questionable Applicability: Although the Clean Air Act requires EPA to conduct a comprehensive review of a given NSPS, EPA has carried many applicability provisions from Subpart DD into the proposed subpart DDa without questioning the merit. The organizations therefore recommend the EPA: 1) exclude “grain storage elevators, i.e., elevators at certain grain processing plants; 2) raise the current applicability triggers from 1.0/2.5 million bushels of permanent storage capacity to at least 3.5/8.8 million bushels; and 3) continue to exclude TSFs from the calculation of permanent storage.
- Compliance Burden: The proposal significantly would increase the burden of performance testing, parameter monitoring, notifications, reporting and recordkeeping. For example, in the proposed rule, EPA estimates the capital cost of its proposed requirement to install a Bag Leak Detection System (BLDS) to be $24,000. However, in addition to the initial capital cost of a BLDS, there would be substantial costs involved to install and perform maintenance on a BLDS.
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