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EPA's Toxic Emissions Ruling Puts Chemical Manufacturers on Notice

April 9, 2024
EPA estimates new Clean Air Act standard will cost industry $150 million a year to comply.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized an air-monitoring ruling under the Clean Air Act April 9 that will result in about $1.8 billion in compliance costs for the U.S. chemical industry.

The EPA ruling impacts more than 200 U.S. chemical plants – including those located in communities along the Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana referred to as “cancer alley”  – that produce ethylene oxide (EtO), chloroprene, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride.

As part of the final rule, the agency also is issuing new emissions limits for dioxins and furans.

When fully implemented, the final rule will cut hazardous air pollution by about 6,200 tons a year. The rule will also reduce more than 23,000 tons of smog-forming volatile organic compounds each year, the EPA said.

To meet the EPA’s requirements, plants will need to take various corrective actions, including improvements to the efficiency of flares used for pollution control. The EPA also is finalizing stronger standards for heat exchange systems, process vents and storage vessels.

The EPA calculated the costs to comply as part of its regulatory impact analyses. From 2024-2038, the plants impacted by the ruling can expect to pay a total of $150 million a year. The annual costs include the value of product recovery, the EPA said.

The agency noted that most of the facilities covered by the final rule are “owned by large corporations” and that the cost of implementation “is less than 1% of their annual national sales.”

Following the announcement, the American Chemistry Council issued a statement saying the EPA’s toxic exposure calculations for EtO using the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) as a benchmark are flawed and criticized the agency for eliminating provisions that allowed for “delay of repair provisions” to fix small leaks.

 “This IRIS value defies reason—it is 23,000 times lower than naturally occurring levels found in the human body,” ACC noted in a prepared statement. “Some of the new restrictions threaten to affect the production of chemistries that are needed for countless everyday products and are used in key industries, including agriculture, healthcare, semiconductors, and electric vehicle batteries. Unfortunately, the value’s continued application in this rule along with EPA’s reliance on outdated emissions data has led to a final rulemaking based on inflated risks and speculative benefits.”

When reached for comment, the Vinyl Institute, which represents manufacturers of vinyl and vinyl chloride, said the organization and its members were still reviewing the final rule.

About the Author

Jonathan Katz | Executive Editor

Jonathan Katz, executive editor, brings nearly two decades of experience as a B2B journalist to Chemical Processing magazine. He has expertise on a wide range of industrial topics. Jon previously served as the managing editor for IndustryWeek magazine and, most recently, as a freelance writer specializing in content marketing for the manufacturing sector.

His knowledge areas include industrial safety, environmental compliance/sustainability, lean manufacturing/continuous improvement, Industry 4.0/automation and many other topics of interest to the Chemical Processing audience.

When he’s not working, Jon enjoys fishing, hiking and music, including a small but growing vinyl collection.

Jon resides in the Cleveland, Ohio, area.

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