American Coatings Association

Senate EPW Chairs Urge EPA to Rescind “Once-in- Always-in” Policy


On Jan. 9, 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, sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt asking him to withdraw an onerous policy known as “once-in-always-in.”

Under the “once-in, always-in” policy, a major source may become an area source (i.e., minor source) by limiting its Potential to Emit (PTE) Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) below the major source thresholds by Dec. 11, 2005 — the last compliance deadline listed under the applicable Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standard (also referred to as National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants or NESHAP). However, a source that fails to achieve “area source status” by Dec. 11, 2005 must remain subject to the MACT even if it subsequently reduces HAP emissions below major source levels at a later date. In other words, sources will always be subject to the MACT rules, regardless of whether the source is no longer a major source of HAP.

 “In the enclosed submissions to the November 15th hearing record, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Coatings Association (ACA) highlighted the practical effects of the policy,” stated the the senators’ letter. “As ACA explains, ‘resources spent on compliance could be used instead for [research and development], or modernization activities.’”

The senators asked Administrator Pruitt to withdraw the policy, noting that EPA can rescind this policy, which was issued under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, without any legislative changes. “As the Chairmen of the Committee and Subcommittee of jurisdiction over the Clean Air Act, we request that you incentivize additional hazardous air pollutant emissions reductions by promptly withdrawing this policy.”

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,” citing the “Once-in-Always-in” policy as particularly burdensome to industry.

“Once-in- Always-in” Policy

This policy with the force of a regulation is a May 16, 1995 EPA memorandum titled, “Potential to Emit (PTE) for MACT Standards – Guidance on Timing Issues,” from John Seitz, Director, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS), to Regional Air Division Directors, and is commonly known as the “Once-in, Always-in” policy.

Notably, 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.”

In its written testimony, ACA noted that EPA published a proposed rule on Jan. 3, 2007 to replace the “once-in always in” policy rule; however, this rulemaking was never finalized.

ACA Advocacy

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.

As such, ACA and other organizations have flagged this policy and requested that EPA withdraw or rescind it. ACA lauds the Senate EPW’s leadership for raising this issue with Administrator Pruitt and has offered to work with the Senate and EPA to help however it may.

Contact ACA’s Heidi McAuliffe for more information.