Air Pollution:

Emission Sources Regulated by Multiple Clean Air Act Provisions

RCED-00-155: Published: May 31, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 3, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the regulatory programs that target specific pollutants or sources of pollution under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, focusing on: (1) examples of emission sources subject to regulation under more than one program authorized by the act; and (2) the status of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to facilitate compliance for such sources.

GAO noted that: (1) the large industrial complexes operated by the petrochemical and refinery, chemical manufacturing, and electric power industries are prime examples of sources that are regulated under multiple programs of the act; (2) for example, emissions of nitrogen oxide from electric power plants are controlled under six programs, including those for controlling acid rain, ground-level ozone, and fine particles and for improving visibility; (3) in addition, petrochemical refineries are regulated under five different titles of the act; (4) similarly, individual chemical plants could be regulated by as many as seven different statutorily authorized programs; (5) specifically, emissions are controlled under programs for reducing ozone (e.g., through control of volatile organic compounds) and under one or more programs for limiting emissions of toxic air pollutants (those known or suspected of causing cancer or other serious health effects); (6) additional state and local regulatory requirements can also apply to the same industrial emission sources; (7) EPA has embarked on a number of initiatives to reduce the regulatory workload and facilitate compliance for such facilities; (8) these include two industry-specific efforts and several other generic approaches, such as establishing total plant-wide emission limits, that are intended to introduce more flexibility in the overall regulatory rulemaking and permitting processes; (9) 2 of EPA's industry-specific efforts are the Consolidated Air Rule and a dialogue with utilities about an integrated strategy for reducing emissions of multiple pollutants; (10) the proposed Consolidated Air Rule is intended to incorporate all federal air regulations that affect the synthetic organic chemical manufacturing industry into a single set of regulations; (11) this proposed rule, pending approval by the Office of Management and Budget, would reduce the regulatory burden and make compliance easier by having one set of emission controls and monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements; (12) the utility dialogue began in 1995 when EPA initiated the Clean Air Power Initiative to discuss with utilities an integrated strategy for reducing air pollution; (13) according to EPA and industry officials, efforts on this initiative were suspended in 1996 because of disagreement within the industry as well as with EPA over the appropriate level for proposed sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide reductions; and (14) however, additional dialogue about an integrated approach for utilities took place in 1998 and 1999.

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