Manufacturing facilities are subject to several environmental standards and regulations, but it’s not always easy to figure out what rules you need to follow and what permits you need to obtain. In fact, many facilities managers we work with say that decoding environmental regulation requirements is one of their most significant pain points.
To help you get started, we put together a short list of some of the most common environmental rules that the manufacturing industry needs to be aware of, comply with, and gain permits for. A bird’s-eye view of environmental regulations will allow you to be confident that your operations and facilities are well on their way to full compliance and that you’ll always be ready for reporting time or surprise inspections.
Note: Every facility is different, so you may be subject to additional regulations not listed here. You can find information on federal environmental regulations on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.
Environmental rules for the manufacturing industry
Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP)
The Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) requires facilities to report greenhouse gas (GHG) data and other associated information on an annual basis. In total, about 8,000 facilities are required to report. The GHGRP has helped gather the data for about 50% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and has proven to be useful data for businesses and municipalities.
Businesses can use GHGRP data to:
- Track and compare facilities’ greenhouse gas emissions
- Identify opportunities to cut pollution
- Minimize wasted energy
- Save money
Cities, states, and other local communities use the data to:
- Find high-emitting facilities in their area
- Compare emissions between similar facilities
- Develop common-sense climate policies
Who needs to report
According to the EPA website, facilities are required to report when:
- GHG emissions from covered sources exceed 25,000 metric tons CO2e per year
- Supply of certain products would result in over 25,000 metric tons CO2e of GHG emissions if those products were released, combusted, or oxidized
- The facility receives 25,000 metric tons or more of CO2 for underground injection
If your facility is required to report GHG data, you can use the electronic Greenhouse Gas Reporting Tool (e-GGRT). Data for the previous year is due on March 31st of each year. Reporting began in 2010 for most facilities, so there’s data publically available for 2010 – 2015.
National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP)
The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) is a collection of emission standards the EPA uses to regulate hazardous air pollution from stationary sources.
- Hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), or “air toxics” are those known to cause cancer, congenital disorders, reproductive defects, other major health concerns, or environmental harm
- Stationary sources include factories, refineries, boilers, and power plants
Each source category (e.g., asbestos, hazardous waste combustors, chemical manufacturing industry, etc.) includes the following information:
- Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards, the maximum degree of emission reduction that the EPA deems achievable
- A distinction between “major” and “area” source
- Major sources emit, or have the potential to emit, 10 or more tons per year of any of the listed toxic air pollutants or 25 or more tons per year of any combination of air toxics
- Area sources do not emit more than 10 tons per year of a single air toxic or more than 25 tons per year of a combination of air toxics
The EPA recently reissued a guidance memorandum allowing sources once classified as “major” to be reclassified as “area” when the facility limits its potential to emit below major source thresholds.
Who needs to meet the standards
All manufacturing sectors are required to comply with some emission standards. Figuring out which NESHAP standards apply to your facility can be tricky, but digging into your manufacturing sector on this EPA web page will give you a pretty good idea.
New Source Performance Standards (NSPS)
New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) include equipment specifications as well as operation and measurement requirements for newly constructed or upgraded stationary sources of pollution.
Who needs to comply
If your facility has newly constructed, upgraded, or modified stationary sources of pollution, you may be subject to New Source Performance Standards (NSPS). You can find the full list of stationary sources subject to NSPS here.
New Source Review (NSR) Permitting
New Source Review (NSR) permitting assures that new or modified industries are running as clean as possible, and also ensures that pollution controls strengthen as industries and facilities expand. The permits specify what construction is allowed, emission limits, and, often, how you are required to operate the stationary source.
Who needs to obtain a permit
If you’re going to construct a new stationary source of air pollution, you’re required to get an NSR permit before breaking ground. There are three sets of NSR permitting requirements. Depending on the situation, you may have to meet one or more of the requirements.
- Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Permits
- Required for new major sources or a major source making a major modification in areas that meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards
- Nonattainment NSR Permits
- Required for new major sources or a major source making a major modification in areas that do not meet one or more of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards
- Minor source permits
- Required for new stationary sources that do not require PSD or nonattainment NSR permits.
Operating Permits, in compliance with Title V of the Clean Air Act, are issued to all major sources (and some area, minor, or non-major sources). The permits include pollution control requirements from federal or state regulations.
Who needs to obtain a permit
Generally, any facility with a major source of air pollutants needs an Operating Permit. Below is a list of who needs to acquire a Title V permit. Chances are your manufacturing facility will fall under one or more of these categories.
- Any major source
- Any source with a major source permit under the New Source Review Permitting Program
- “Affected Sources” under Acid Rain Rules
- Solid waste incineration units under Section 129
- Non-major sources subject to NESHAP (MACT or GACT Standards)
- Certain Synthetic Minor Sources subject to NESHAP Requirements
- Non-major Sources subject to NESHAP and New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) Requirements
Risk Management Plan (RMP) Rule
Risk management plans help first responders prepare for and efficiently respond to chemical emergencies.
RMPs must include these three items:
- A hazard assessment detailing:
- Potential effects of an accidental release
- Accident history of the last five years
- Evaluation of worst-case and alternative accidental releases
- Prevention program including:
- Safety precautions
- Maintenance, monitoring, and employee training measures
- Emergency response program outlining:
- Emergency healthcare
- Employee training measures
- Procedures for informing the public and response agencies in the event of an accident
Who needs an RMP?
If your facility exceeds the threshold quantity of a regulated substance, you’re required to implement a risk management plan and also submit a written RMP to the EPA every five years.
Tier I and Tier II reporting is required under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA). Tier I reporting provides general information about chemicals stored at your facility, including location and hazard types. Tier II reporting provides specific information about chemicals present at your facility.
Who needs to report?
- If your facility is required to maintain SDSs under OSHA regulations, you are subject to Tier I/II reporting requirements. You must submit reporting forms to the following organizations on March 1st of each year:
- State Emergency Response Commission (SERC)
- Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC)
- Local fire department
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting regulates point sources that discharge pollutants into American water sources. In the case of manufacturing facilities, a point source is “any discernible, confined, and discrete conveyance, such as a pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, discrete fissure, or container.”
Controlling discharges relies on effluent limitations. When writing an NPDES permit, one must consider both Technology-based Effluent Limitations (TBELs) and Water Quality-based Effluent Limitations (WQBELs).
There are several different kinds of NPDES permits, but manufacturing facilities typically only need to be concerned with stormwater and industrial wastewater permits. Stormwater permits are designed to prevent stormwater runoff from washing pollutants into surface waters. The EPA website says an industrial wastewater permit “establishes discharge limits and conditions for industrial and commercial sources with specific limitations based on the type of facility/activity generating the discharge.”
Who needs an NPDES permit under the stormwater program?
If your operations fall under one or more of these categories, you may need an NPDES permit before you can discharge stormwater.
- Facilities subject to federal stormwater effluent discharge standards at 40 CFR Parts 405-471
- Heavy manufacturing (e.g., paper mills, chemical plants, petroleum refineries, steel mills, and foundries)
- Light manufacturing (e.g., food processing, printing and publishing, electronic and other electrical equipment manufacturing, public warehousing, and storage)
Note: For clarity, we only included those categories directly related to the manufacturing industry. You can find a full list of categories subject to NPDES permits under the stormwater program here.
Who needs an NPDES permit under the industrial wastewater program?
If your facility discharges water from manufacturing activities, you need an NPDES permit.
As you can see, there’s a lot for manufacturing facility managers to consider when it comes to environmental regulations. If you need assistance wading through the complexities of federal, state, and local regulations, contact us to talk directly to one of our environmental experts.