Volume 9, Number 3
A Gossman Consulting, Inc. Publication
May 2004

Secondary Aluminum Production NESHAPs Regulation

An Examination of the 40CFR 63 Subpart RRR Regulation


David Constans, Gossman Consulting, Inc.

The secondary aluminum production HAPs emissions standards regulation was promulgated March 23, 2000 with a March 24, 2003 compliance date.  There were several minor revisions issued prior to the compliance date.  All of these are included in the regulation as currently published in the CFR.

Preamble to the Regulation
The EPA provides a preamble to the regulation when it is first published in the Federal Register.  This preamble provides a summary of the rule, justification for the requirements and response to comments that had been received during the comment period.  These comments and responses are often revealing.  The comments generally present the major concerns that the industry (and occasionally other interested parties) has with the regulation.  The responses often provide valuable insight into how EPA formulates a regulation.

EPA frequently has imperfect information when formulating regulations.  In particular with these maximum achievable control technology (MACT) CAA Section 112 regulations the EPA has promulgated regulations with less than the mandated information.  EPA admits as much on page 15697 of Federal Register Vol. 65, No. 57.  However, EPA sites a March 2, 1999 court case (Sierra Club vs. EPA) as justifying their actions.  Part of this justification includes the following: “The EPA determined the MACT floor (editor-the emissions standard) based on information available for each affected source and emission unit.  At proposal, the EPA selected emission limits at the floor level of control, and the commenters (editor-generally these are the regulated community) provided no additional emissions data for any pollutant for EPA to consider.”

In effect, the EPA is saying, “We did the best we could with what we were given”.  However, in preparing for promulgation of previous MACT regulations the EPA has funded emissions testing to acquire the needed emissions data.  This may have been done in this instance but it is not mentioned in the preamble.  EPA also would have utilized emissions tests performed by individual facilities, either to satisfy some state regulatory requirement or merely corporate curiosity.  These emissions tests were designed and executed for a particular purpose.  Unfortunately, this purpose may be at considerable odds with how EPA subsequently used the data.  This has been a common feature of EPA’s emissions standards regulation.  GCI has repeatedly assisted our clients in challenging emissions testing data acquired for a specified purpose being used to establish MACT floor levels.  Another issue is the quality of the data.  EPA makes no attempt to verify the quality of emissions data used for this purpose.  In examining PCDD/PCDF emissions test data subsequently utilized by the EPA to set a MACT floor level, GCI has found up to 30% of that data to be of poor quality.  Clearly, the purpose for which the data was generated and the quality of the data is important in determining if the data is applicable for the intended use.

As an example of inappropriate use of emissions data by EPA for determining a MACT floor level for PCDD/PCDF emissions from a dryer.  Assume a facility in order to acquire a state air permit performed on emissions test of a fired dryer with a flue gas dust collector.  The purpose of the test was to demonstrate that the dust collector achieved a specified particulate emissions limit at a high feed rate to the dryer.  The state asked to have THC and PCDD/PCDF emissions sampled as well but these emissions were not their main concern as the device was easily expected to pass these reasonably high limits.  The character of the feedstock was neither monitored nor recorded.  The organic content of the feedstock would be unknown.

The data would likely show low PCDD/PCDF and THC emissions versus the tonnage fed.  The EPA would have no way of knowing that this emissions test would not be representative of the normal operations and probably would not care to know.

Most of the rest of the comments in the preamble focus on the commenter’s interpretation of the regulations and how these regulations are overly burdensome.  Here the commenters are at a distinct disadvantage.  The EPA must write a regulation that on the one hand is specific i.e., setting emissions limits for HAPS, while on the other hand allow some flexibility for how a facility achieves the emissions limit yet still require a continuing demonstration by the facility that it is controlling its emissions.  EPA’s task is complicated by the variety of equipment, the feedstock, the modes of operations, etc.  Plus the EPA does not know the technology as well as they should.  Consequently, there is a gap between what EPA thinks it wants and what is technically and economically possible.

The commenters disadvantage is a lack of hard data to present to support their arguments.  Gathering and presenting this data to the EPA is one of the major functions of industry associations.  Even then the individual facilities must present hard data and well thought out permit applications to acquire the least burdensome permit conditions.

The Regulation
The regulation follows the usual format.  The “definitions” section is longer than normal, reflecting a wider variety of equipment and operational modes than is usually the case.  By the manner in which the regulation is written, it is obvious that the EPA envisioned the operation of the various parts of the facility to be independent of the others.  The furnaces would be operated independent of the scrap dryers and so on.  This does not address why the EPA would set a limit of 15 micro g TEQ/Mg of feed for D/F emissions from a Group 1 furnace and a 0.25 micro g TEQ/Mg of feed for D/F emissions from a scrap dryer.  From an operational standpoint any potential reduction in D/F emissions gained by utilizing a scrap dryer as opposed to feeding the furnace directly is punished rather than rewarded by this regulation.

The emission limits are almost entirely listed as a mass per unit feed.  This reflects the variety of equipment, the composition of the feedstock and the operational modes utilized in the industry.  For the EPA, the selection of the mass per unit feed solved a problem, how to promulgate an emission limit over a widely varied industry.  For the industry such a limit greatly complicates their efforts to comply with the regulation.  As with any set of emission limits, it may be possible to achieve all but one parameter at a given feedrate.  Unlike emission limits that are defined as mass per unit of flue gas there is no feedrate, no matter how low, that will achieve a mass per unit feed emissions limit.  Essentially, if a facility has a small amount of feedstock that causes emission problems this feedstock must be blended with other feedstock in order to be processed.  If this is not possible (due to its chemical composition such that it will produce an alloy of useless value) the facility has only two choices; 1) stop processing that material or; 2) upgrade the equipment to achieve the emission limit.  Not processing the material will cost the facility a customer.  Upgrading the equipment will cost money and if the quantity of that feedstream is insufficient to support that expense the company loses money.

It may be possible to petition for a mode of operation that allows a mass per unit flue gas that is acceptable to the agency, but this would require supporting data and operating limits to ensure compliance.  The testing cost alone could be cost prohibitive for a feedstream of limited size.

The rest of the regulation is similar to that seen for other MACT compliant industries.  The Operations, Maintenance and Monitoring Plan and The Start-Up Shutdown and Malfunction Plan requirements are similar to those in other regulations, although in most cases the monitoring requirements are a separate section of the regulation.

The performance test requirements appear to be consistent with those seen in other regulations.  Since approval for the plan must be obtained before performing the test sequence it may be possible to use this approval process to acquire some needed variation in meeting the regulatory requirements.  Such variation may include, different modes of operation, alternative test methods or alternative monitoring methods.  The reporting and records requirements appear to be standard.  For facilities that have had few such requirements, these reporting and record keeping requirements may seem onerous.  They are however, not unusual.

In all, the regulation is not too dissimilar from other MACT regulations.  It suffers from similar deficiencies seen elsewhere.  Specifically, the EPA bases the regulation on too little data and a limited understanding of the industry.  Some of this can be overcome by the presentation of data to support well-formed arguments by a “secondary aluminum processors association”.  Other aspects will have to be addressed on a facility-by-facility basis during the compliance process.

Gossman Consulting, Inc. is a consulting firm specializing in assisting industry in complying with the state and federal agencies.  Anyone can get you a permit by simply acquiescing to the agencies’ demands.  Unlike many of our competitors GCI believes that the permit you are issued must be a permit you can operationally live with.  To that end we work very hard to acquire permit conditions that reflect the technically and economically possible.  Also, GCI is very experienced in writing and executing performance test plans.  GCI formulates plans that provide the client with the largest possible operating envelope that will demonstrate compliance with the regulation.  Emission testing is expensive; you should get your money’s worth!  GCI can help.  If you would like to discuss our assisting you in your regulatory compliance efforts please contact David Gossman at 563-652-2822 or send an e-mail to dgossman@gcisolutions.com.