Cutting Through the Haze

Smaller Businesses Targeted to Help Clear Wasatch Front Air

Ashley A. Peck and Marie B. Durrant

August 9, 2013

It’s no secret that the Wasatch Front is facing big challenges when it comes to air quality, particularly in the wintertime. During a stretch of weeks in January, fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5, exceeded federal health standards and prompted national news headlines, local rallies, demands from doctors to declare a health emergency and an “F” grade from the American Lung Association.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has been working on plans to cut PM 2.5 emissions, but so far has come up short of federal emission reduction requirements.

But what may surprise some smaller business owners are the wide-ranging regulations that the DAQ finalized earlier this year, which place restrictions on restaurants, large bakeries, auto-body shops and others that historically have not had to worry about compliance with air quality regulations because of their size. Affected businesses will want to become informed about the particular requirements and act within the upcoming deadlines to avoid running afoul of these new state laws.

Regulatory Backdrop

The federal Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and periodically revise national health-based standards for several pollutants in ambient air, including PM 2.5. Areas that do not meet standards are designated non-attainment areas. The act requires each state to develop an implementation plan describing the air pollution reductions it will require from specific sources to attain and maintain these standards, subject to approval by the EPA.

Fine particulate matter can be primary or secondary: primary PM 2.5 is emitted as a particle from tailpipes or other sources, whereas secondary PM 2.5 is formed when a reaction between precursor pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), form PM 2.5 in the atmosphere. The majority of PM 2.5 in the ambient air along the Wasatch Front area is thought to be secondary.

Development of a state implementation plan normally includes inventories of all emissions in the airshed, including not only permitted major industrial sources and vehicle emissions, but also more dispersed “area sources” that do not emit enough pollutants individually to meet thresholds for permitting, but are instead inventoried and ultimately regulated collectively by source category.

States must require reasonably available control measures for these emission sources, which typically include emission limitations or other measures to control emissions determined on a case-by-case basis, considering issues of technological and economic feasibility.

New Utah Area Source Rules

As part of its development of the PM2.5 state implementation plan to meet the new, stricter EPA standards, the DAQ has adopted multiple new rules to regulate area sources and require them to apply reasonably available control measures to their PM2.5 and/or VOC emissions. These new rules apply to a wide range of businesses operating in Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele, Utah and Weber counties.

For example, a new rule pertaining to commercial cooking requires that owners or operators of chain-driven charbroilers in food service establishments install, maintain and operate a catalytic oxidizer to reduce uncontrolled PM 2.5 and VOC emissions by at least 80 percent. This equipment must be installed by Sept. 1, and owners and operators must maintain records of installation and maintenance.

Another new rule regulates VOC emissions from baking ovens that process yeast-leavened products and have a combined rated heat input capacity equal to or greater than three million BTU per hour. By Sept. 1, owners or operators must install an emission system that reduces VOC emissions by 80 percent, and they must maintain records to demonstrate that the system is being operated according to manufacturer requirements and meeting the required emission reduction.

Rules affecting the local automotive service industry include restrictions on the VOC content of paints and other coatings used for automobile refinishing and restrictions on work practices for applying such coatings, and another rule restricting VOC emissions from industrial degreasing and solvent operations.

Additional rules are aimed at reducing VOC emissions from aerospace and furniture manufacturing facilities and from other manufacturing operations using various industrial coatings containing VOCs.

More to Come

Despite including these and other measures in the draft PM 2.5 state implementation plan for the Salt Lake City area, the DAQ still needs to come up with an additional 22 tons of reductions to meet federal standards. An environmental group filed suit against the EPA on May 16, alleging that it has failed to require Utah to comply with statutory deadlines for development of the state implementation plan. This may mean DAQ must move even more quickly to find additional emissions reductions in order to avoid a potential federal implementation plan, which would mean that the EPA would unilaterally establish the requirements for reductions. 

Ashley A. Peck and Marie B. Durrant are attorneys in Holland & Hart’s Salt Lake City office, where they assist clients in environmental compliance and litigation matters.


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