The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new standards that would lower by 45 percent the amount of what it calls total organic air toxics emissions that can be released into the environment during the production of PVC and its copolymer products.
In addition, the proposed rule sets specific air emission limits for vinyl chloride, hydrogen chloride and chlorinated dibenzodioxins and furans, as well as work practice standards for companies.
This is a court-mandated shift in approach from the current rule. That rule was first established in 2002, vacated by the courts, and then revised in 2007. The original rule only set emission limits for vinyl chloride and used vinyl chloride, using those as surrogates for all air emissions from the process.
The highly technical proposal, announced April 18, contains specific emission limits for several portions of the production process, including those from PVC process vents, resin processing, equipment leaks, heat exchangers and storage vessels. There are also new limits on allowable concentrations of those chemicals into waste-water streams.
We're absorbing this new rule that's been proposed by the EPA, said Allen Blakey, vice president of industry and government affairs for the Vinyl Institute in Alexandria, Va. We're learning, as we read the 389 pages, what's in it.
We did a lot of testing to give the EPA data for this rule, Blakely said. We think the data showed we had very low emissions and we hope that's reflected in the rule. We've tried to support the process all along.
According to EPA, eight companies currently operate 17 PVC production facilities in the United States, including six in Louisiana and four in Texas. The agency said that most PVC production facilities in the U.S. manufacture PVC resins that are used to make a large number of commercial and industrial products at other manufacturing plants. Those products include latex paints, coatings, adhesives, clear plastics, rigid plastics, and flooring.
EPA estimates that the new proposed standard would reduce total hazardous air-pollution emissions from PVC production facilities nationwide by 3.14 million pounds annually. That emissions reduction includes 270,000 pounds of vinyl chloride, 66,000 pounds of hydrogen chloride, and 0.022 gram of CDDFs.
The estimated reduction in total air toxic [emissions] is 45 percent, EPA said in an email response to Plastics News. That includes a 30 percent reduction in vinyl chloride, a 12 percent reduction in hydrogen chloride and a 32 percent reduction in chlorinated dibenzodioxins and furans.
EPA estimated the cost of compliance for the industry would total $15.6 million. The majority of that, $12.5 million, will be spent to comply with regulations requiring covers on process vents.
EPA estimated annual compliance costs at $19.7 million in 2010 dollars, or less than 0.7 percent of revenues. The majority of those costs, or $14.5 million, would be to comply with stripped resin emission regulations, it said.
The court-ordered implementation date for the new standard is Jan. 13, 2012, the aftermath of a lawsuit by the Sierra Club. There will be public hearings in Baton Rouge, La., and Houston, and a 60-day public comment period after the proposal officially appears in the Federal Register sometime in the next couple of weeks.
Firms must be in compliance three years after the final rule goes into effect. The rule requires firms making process changes to demonstrate that any added emission points are in compliance with applicable requirements for an existing affected source, and mandates continuous emission monitoring at certain points during PVC production.
Companies can use what they consider maximum achievable control technology, known as MACT, to meet the standards.