27 April 1998 00:00 [Source: ICB Americas]A proposed rule that would consolidate air regulations that apply to chemical manufacturing facilities is under review by White House regulatory officials. The so-called Consolidated Air Rule, a product of the Clinton Administration's reinvention of government initiative, is expected to be issued this summer.
Government and industry officials say the proposal combines into a single rule various air pollution regulations applicable to the chemical industry. Companies will have the option of complying with the consolidated rule or continuing to meet control requirements contained in separate Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
In addition to drawing together the recordkeeping and reporting requirements contained in various rules covering the industry, the regulation includes provisions for easing certain equipment leak monitoring requirements chemical plants must now meet.
These provisions would allow a company to separate valves, flanges and other point sources into two groups. The first would include point sources that very rarely leak, and the second would include those more likely to leak.
An EPA official says this will enable companies to increase the frequency with which they monitor problematic point sources and reduce the number of times they monitor sources that seldom leak.
Because most valves, flanges and other sources at chemical plants do not leak, most companies will be able to conduct much less overall monitoring than they do now, he explains.
Ted Cromwell, director of air and water programs for Chemical Manufacturers Association, says the relaxed equipment monitoring provisions offer "a real potential for savings."
Chemical companies must currently comply with the requirements of equipment leak monitoring provisions contained in a variety of new source performance standards and air toxics standards. Some require monitoring as frequently as once a month, which can be extremely costly for companies with thousands of valves, flanges and other sources of potential leaks.
Noting that 90 percent of these sources seldom leak, Mr. Cromwell says companies will be able to sharply reduce their monitoring costs under the Consolidated Air Rule.
EPA estimates that about 400 chemical companies could adopt the new rule, but it is unclear how many would actually benefit. Mr. Cromwell says that companies now subject to only one or two EPA air standards will probably retain their existing regulatory compliance program.
But for other companies, he expects the benefits of the consolidated rule to outweigh the costs, and he says the provisions for easing equipment monitoring requirements may provide an incentive for switching.
The proposal estimates that it would probably take a typical chemical plant about 6,600 hours per year to implement the rule's requirements. An EPA analysis concludes the consolidated air rule would save a plant that now meets separate rules about 1,700 hours per year.
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