I was very disappointed in your article concerning enforcement of the Clean Air Act and the new New Source Review (NSR) provisions (ENR 11/17 p. 12). It is clear that the authors did not read the new provisions but relied upon claims of those who oppose them. The truth is that the new provisions are not a reversal of the Clean Air Act. Rather, the new rule simply defines routine maintenance, repair and replacement (RMRR).

It is important to note that the original objective of the NSR in the 1977 Clean Air Act was to be a preconstruction permitting program with two primary purposes: ensuring maintenance of air-quality standards when factories, industrial boilers and powerplants are modified or added; and assuring that state-of-the- art control technology is installed in new plants or in existing plants when undergoing major modifications.

The new rule still states that pollution-control devices are required if a plant undertakes anything more than RMRR on their plants. The exemption from installing pollution controls occurs for routine maintenance if:

  • It involves replacement of any existing component(s) of a process unit with an identical or functionally equivalent component(s).
  • The fixed capital cost of the replaced component, plus costs of any repair and maintenance activities that are part of the replacement activity (such as labor, contract services, or major equipment rental, does not exceed 20% of the replacement value of the entire process unit.
  • Replacement(s) does not change basic design parameters of the process unit.
  • The replacement(s) does not cause the unit to exceed any emissions limits.

Many of the states challenging this new rule are also fearful that the 20% replacement value will allow incremental upgrades over a period of years and allow old plants to increase emissions and upgrade without installing pollution control devices. This simply is not a well- founded fear. As soon as one of the above criteria are violated, the plant is required to upgrade its pollution control devices!

It is difficult to understand how this new rule will result in harm to the environment or loss in construction and engineering jobs. One could argue that allowing RMRR according to the new rule might actually reduce emissions through increased efficiencies in the existing plants. Allowing RMRR to proceed unimpeded by unnecessary bureaucracy keeps trades people and engineers employed as well.