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EPA Issues Final Air Emissions Standards for Plating and Polishing Area Sources

On July 1, 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the final regulation for plating and polishing area sources in the Federal Register (73 Fed. Reg. 37728). The final rule, 40 CFR Part 63, Subpart WWWWWW, is effective immediately for new affected sources (i.e., those that begin operations on or after July 1, 2008). Existing plating and polishing operations must comply with the new regulatory requirements by July 1, 2010.

The Clean Air Act mandates that the EPA must promulgate standards to control the emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from small or area sources. An area source is a facility that emits less than 10 tons per year of a single HAP or less than 25 tons per year of total HAPs. Under the terms of a court order, the EPA was required to issue area source emissions standards for plating and polishing operations by June 2008. The order also set a schedule for the EPA to issue standards for 54 other area source industry categories. 

The plating and polishing processes that are subject to the plating and polishing area source rule are those “processes performed at an affected plating and polishing facility that uses or has the potential to emit” any compound of any of the following metal HAPs: cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, and nickel. This includes electrolytic and non-electrolytic plating and coating processes (e.g., electroplating, conversion coating, sealing, and phosphating), electroforming, dry mechanical polishing, and thermal spray at approximately 2,900 existing plating and polishing facilities.  
 
The final rule does not apply to the following:
 
Process that are subject to the Chromium MACT standard (40 CFR Part 63, Subpart N);
 
Processes that use cadmium, chromium, lead, and nickel in concentrations of less than 0.1% by weight and manganese in concentrations of less than 1.0% by weight;
 
Processes that use metals other than cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, and nickel;
 
Tanks used strictly for educational purposes;
 
Thermal spraying processes to repair surfaces; and
 
Dry mechanical polishing on a surface prior to plating.
 
Applicable GACT Standards
The NASF Government Relations (GR) program has been working closely with EPA officials by providing technical information on a variety of plating and polishing processes in developing the final rule. As a result of these efforts, the EPA did not establish emission limits for plating and polishing operations, but required plating and polishing facilities to follow management practices as the generally available control technology (GACT) standards. The management practices included using wetting agents in electroplating tanks, and the capture and control of emissions from thermal spraying and dry mechanical polishing. 
 
According to the EPA, additional controls were not necessary because the industry had successfully reduced air emissions through the implementation of management practices and had reduced emissions by 95% since 1990. The EPA estimates the new standards will cost an average of $1,100 per facility for the first three years.
 
In response to the industry’s comments, the EPA made some clarifications in the regulatory language of the final rule and provided a broader array of management practice options for facilities to implement to comply with the rule. 
 
A copy of the final rule is available on the NASF website at www.nasf.org. Over the next several months, NASF will be working with EPA officials to develop compliance guidance for the final plating and polishing area source rule. If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact Christian Richter of Jeff Hannapel at crichter@thepolicygroup.com or jhannapel@thepolicygroup.com

 

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