Blog   |   Feb 6th, 2018 EPA Does “Major” About-Face on 1995 Pollution Policy

Trc Epa Major About Face

Why “once in” is no longer “always in”

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency reversed a 1995 policy that prevented a facility classified as a “major” source of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) from being reclassified a minor or “area” source through a reduction of emissions.

Known as the “once in, always in” policy, it required that even if a facility subject to a Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standard reduced its emissions below the major source threshold – the potential to emit more than 10 tons per year of any one HAP or more than 25 tons per year of any combination of HAPs – it still had to meet the MACT requirements as if it were a major source.

The new policy, outlined in a January 25 memo from Bill Wehrum, the EPA’s assistant administrator for air and radiation, simply reverses the 1995 policy. It states that Congress did not authorize such a policy and simply defined the categories of major and area sources.

“This guidance is based on a plain language reading of the statute that is in line with EPA’s guidance for other provisions of the Clean Air Act,” said Wehrum. “It will reduce regulatory burden for industries and the states, while continuing to ensure stringent and effective controls on hazardous air pollutants.”

Practical Implications

The new policy allows a facility that has or will reduce its HAPs emissions below the major threshold to change its permit to eliminate terms and conditions required by the major source MACT standard to which it was previously subject. This change of policy is helpful to industry, but there are several situations that need to be considered:

  • If there are area source requirements at a facility, the facility must continue to comply with them.
  • If the MACT standard for the facility requires a control device and area source status may be achieved without that device, there may be other impediments to removing the device, such as new permitting.
  • States may be more stringent than the EPA with regard to the policy or anti-backsliding arguments. For the most part, however, reducing emissions is likely to be encouraged by the states.
  • Many sources are subject to the more rigorous MACT standard because they are a major source of some other HAP or because they previously surpassed the major threshold – even though their emissions are below the major source threshold for that MACT today. This provides an opportunity to rectify those situations, especially if emissions of the original HAP have been reduced.

Because it is just a policy, it may be shielded from the legal actions that environmental organizations have already threatened.

Taking advantage of this new policy could save companies a significant amount of time and money. But it will take the proper planning and expertise to get a facility reclassified. TRC can guide you through the process of getting your permits changed and approved by state regulators and EPA. Contact Gale Hoffnagle at or at (860) 298-6247 for more information.

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Blog Author

Gale Hoffnagle