Air Emissions Regulated Under RCRA?

Certain regulated entities that operate under Clean Air Act permits are being reminded that those permits do not necessarily cover air emissions associated with the management of hazardous wastes regulated by the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and various State counterpart statutes. RCRA regulations governing hazardous waste management include certain requirements intended to prevent fugitive emissions of hazardous air pollutants, and these can operate separate from or in addition to requirements imposed by a facility's air permit.

An EPA national enforcement initiative has identified this as an area of regulatory emphasis, and the impact is being seen now in enforcement compliance inspections conducted by EPA staff. (Enforcement Initiative - Cutting Hazardous Air Pollutants). This initiative is not necessarily new, but has become an object of greater focus and has been extended for the years 2017 and 2018, indicating the significance that EPA places on the issue. Addressing hazardous air pollutants, EPA has noted that the handling of hazardous waste can result in toxic air emissions, and EPA has observed that there appear to be what it classifies as "widespread violations of the air emission requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act." (Federal Register - Enforcement Initiatives - fiscal years 2017-2019 ) Consequently, compliance personnel at such regulated entities should review certain RCRA regulations to determine whether and to what extent they may have application to facility operations in addition to the provisions of any air permit.

The regulations in question are found at 40 CFR §§ 264/265, Parts AA, BB, and CC. While Parts 264 and 265, respectively, relate to permitting requirements and interim status for facilities that treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste, the regulations have also made these Parts applicable to large quantity generators who store hazardous waste for periods of 90 days or less and, thus, are not required to have a hazardous waste permit. (RCRA Organic Air Emission Standards for TSDFs and LQGs) These regulations focus on the management of materials and the maintenance of units in order to prevent the emission of hazardous air pollutants, particularly through the prevention of leaks or mismanagement of such things as flares, valves, pumps, connecting pipes, etc.

EPA has concluded that many regulated entities mistakenly believe that these units are covered under the umbrella of air emissions permits and, thus, are not regulated under RCRA. That is not necessarily the case. It is EPA's view that certain operational and maintenance activities must be conducted in order to prevent emissions from these units. While EPA purports that it does not intend to cause duplication, regulated entities must comply with certain requirements which may be applicable under their air permits, but if not, then requirements imposed by RCRA must be met. The key is in knowing whether compliance with the requirements of the air permit is sufficient, and EPA Region 4 has produced a handbook that may be helpful. (RCRA/CAA Overlap Provisions.pdf.)

Given EPA's ongoing implementation of this enforcement initiative during facility inspections, including those at large quantity generators, facility compliance personnel should remind themselves of the requirements both of the RCRA regulations and any similar applicable requirements under their air permits and be certain that operational requirements and limits are observed and any necessary inspections are conducted and records maintained.

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