Understanding the Lehigh Cement Title V Permit Issue
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollution (“NESHAPs”), which are industry-based standards for 187 different air toxics that apply to existing and new emission sources. On August 6, 2010, the EPA issued amendments to its NESHAPs that for the first time require reduced toxics air emissions from cement kilns.
The amended NESHAPs limit emissions of mercury, total hydrocarbons, particulate matter, and hydrochloric acid from existing and new cement kilns or sources. Because “new sources” refer to kilns constructed after May 6, 2009, the provisions relating to “existing sources” apply to the Plant. The EPA further issued new methods and criteria for emissions monitoring systems.
Existing cement kilns must at the very least comply with the new emissions limits within three years of the amendments being published by the Federal Register. The amended NESHAPs were published on August 10, 2010 and thus the compliance deadline for the Lehigh cement plant is August 10, 2013.
Lehigh as a major facility must obtain operating permits under Title V of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment and the Federal Operating Permit Program. A Title V Permit compiles applicable local, state, and federal air quality requirements, including emissions limits and standards, monitoring, record-keeping, and reporting requirements. This permit is renewable every 5 years. The Title V for Lehigh was last issued in 2005 and is due on 2010. Lehigh submitted a Title V renewal application on April 28, 2008.
On March 9, 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) issued the Plant a Notice of Violation under the Clean Air Act. The Notice of Violation stated that, between 1996 and 1999, the Plant underwent a series of physical modifications (plant modernization to increase efficiency and production) resulting in significant increase in emissions of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, without applying for a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (“PSD”) permit as required under the Clean Air Act. Further, the Plant failed to identify the PSD requirements in its application for the 2003 Title V Permit and therefore obtained a deficient permit. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has the authority to enforce the Notice of Violation by issuing an administrative penalty order or seeking an injunction or civil penalty. The EPA proceeded to conduct confidential enforcement negotiations with the Plant. The negotiations are still ongoing and may take several years to resolve, but if a settlement is reached, it will become public and may offer the possibility of public comment.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (“BAAQMD”) implements state and federal air quality laws in Santa Clara County and has authority to issue the Title V Permit renewals under the supervision of the EPA. In the fall of 2009, BAAQMD submitted a draft Title V Permit renewal to the EPA for review. However BAAQMD withdrew it on January 5, 2010 because new NESHAP for cement plants were being proposed and BAAQMD wanted to incorporate these new standards into the Title V permit once finalized by the EPA. BAAQMD would then resubmit a proposed permit to incorporate the updated emission standards, which were eventually issued on August 9, 2010. Before BAAQMD can resubmit the Title V Permit renewal to the EPA, it must allow public comment on the proposed permit for at least 30 days. Public comment inputs have commenced and will end on March 25, 2011. Members of the public can find out information for submitting comments at:
As explained in Mercury in our Neighborhoods our close vicinity to Lehigh Cement and our high population density puts us at higher health risks than communities near other cement plants. The BAAQMD must impose stricter limits for the cement plant than required by the EPA just as auto emissions are tighter in California than national limits. Here are some of the things we would like incorporated into the new Title V permit (not a complete list):
Limits for toxic emissions and particulate matter to be tighter than those for existing kilns and approach those for new cement kilns. For example mercury should be 50 lbs/year instead of 88 lbs/year;
All Toxic Emissions must be monitored on a continuous basis;
Toxic Emissions should be averaged daily and these values used to determine if emissions exceed the established limits in #1 (currently it is averaged over an entire month);
All emissions data should be immediately and easily accessible (displayed and downloadable in a format that is easily usable in a spread sheet) all the time by the public as a matter of transparency.
See Announcement from BAAQMD about public comments.