American Coatings Association

EPA Withdraws “Once-in-Always-In” Policy


On Jan. 25, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a memorandum rescinding its “once-in-always-in” policy that applied to facilities that were “major” sources of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act. A “major source” is defined as a source that has the PTE HAP up to 10 tons per year (tpy) of any single HAP or 25 tpy of any combination of HAPs. Sources below this threshold are considered “area sources.”

EPA’s memorandum states that “sources of hazardous air pollutants previously classified as ‘major sources’ may [now] be reclassified as ‘area’ sources at any time, provided the facility limits its potential to emit below major source thresholds.”

The previous EPA policy dating to 1995 was known as “once-in-always-in” because it mandated that even if facilities were able to reduce emissions below major source levels, they still had to comply with the more stringent major source requirements. It also bore the force of a regulation.

ACA has advocated for withdrawal of this EPA policy for several years. Notably, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), chair of the EPW Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, cited ACA in their Jan. 9 letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt asking him to withdraw the “once-in-always-in” policy. The letter quoted ACA testimony citing the onerous impact of the policy, and contention that “resources spent on compliance could be used instead for [research and development], or modernization activities.”

ACA Advocacy

ACA had submitted testimony at the Nov. 15, 2017 Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on “Promoting American Leadership in Reducing Air Emissions Through Innovation,” highlighting the “Once-in-Always-in” policy as particularly burdensome to industry.

ACA has repeatedly stressed to EPA, members of Congress, and the Department of Commerce, that the coatings manufacturing industry has substantially reduced the use of HAPs since the 1990s. In fact, many facilities subject to the Miscellaneous Coatings Manufacturing (MCM) and Miscellaneous Organic Chemical (MON) Manufacturing MACTs are now “area source” facilities, but still must comply with the MCM requirements even though they are not major source facilities. While many coatings and resin manufacturing operations could reduce emissions prior to the first compliance date of the MCM and MON, other facilities could not. Facilities that could not reduce their emissions have since installed expensive thermal oxidation units.

“This ‘policy’ or ‘guidance’ has been applied by EPA as a ‘rule,’ with binding effects on the regulated community, including very burdensome compliance costs,” ACA noted. “This guidance is outdated and unnecessary and imposes a substantial burden on industry that well exceeds any benefits. Industry resources spent on compliance could be used instead for R&D, or modernization activities. This policy also acts as a disincentive for industry, since facilities have no incentive to voluntarily reduce HAP emissions below major source thresholds.”

Thermal oxidation units require a significant capital investment — millions of dollars per facility — and annual operation and maintenance costs: several hundred thousand dollars per facility per year in fuel cost alone. These units consume large amounts of electricity and natural gas, which results in additional emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. In fact, EPA has estimated that installation and operating of air pollution controls for the MCM and MON rules would require an overall energy demand increase of 5.83 trillion BTUs; a total capital expenditure of $184 million; yearly operating costs of nearly $91 million; and an increase in NOx, CO, SOx emissions of 987 tons per year.

ACA lauds the Senate EPW’s leadership for raising this issue with Administrator Pruitt, and EPA for effecting its withdrawal.

Contact ACA’s Heidi McAuliffe for more information.