Air Toxics Across the United States

EM – August 2020: This issue looks at the changing view of air toxics, and how regulations and guidance are addressing growing public attention.
by Teresa Raine

How toxic air pollutants are regulated, or even defined, is a long and winding road globally that can, and has, varied by country, state, or province. Requirements can be a “nuisance” standard with few specifics, a permit requirement with management practices, or a robust regional regulation requiring ongoing monitoring and air dispersion modeling to demonstrate compliance with established standards. In recent years, public interest in air toxics in the United States has grown, leading states to refine or revise local regulations. In these unique times, global interest in the impacts of air quality and respiratory health are understandability high.

Within the United States, separate from the defined “criteria pollutants—carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and lead—a specific portion of air toxics, or hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), are also regulated under the U.S. Clean Air Act (CAA), and a subgroup of 30 HAPs are further monitored and regulated as urban air toxics. Federally, HAPs are generally regulated, mitigated, and controlled through source and sector specific standards contained in the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), and for major source of HAPs, through Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) requirements.

Even as these federal regulations continue to be updated and redefined, individual U.S. states, which have additional stricter air toxic requirements, are considering and changing their views and regulations for statewide air toxics programs, guidance, and regulations. State regulations range from a straightforward reference of federal HAP standards, to robust permitting programs requiring the tracking and regulation of hundreds of additional air toxics, air toxics dispersion modeling and/or monitoring, and state permitting requirements. This patchwork of regulations can present a challenge for industrial sources and sectors with operations across the United States when trying to implement a consistent internal air compliance program.

The articles in this month's issue explore the variations and recent developments for state air toxics programs on the West and East Coasts of the United States. In our first article, authors Grace Lee, Megan Moreen, Rodrigo Gonzalez-Abraham, and Monica Wright discuss “The Changing View of Air Toxics on the West Coast of the United States,” looking specifically at the development and recent updates to the air toxic programs in California, Washington, and Oregon; each state has a different regulatory view of toxic air pollutants (TAPS).

In our second article, authors Josh Hemperly, David T. Murtha, Tracey A. Karatas, and Toby Hanna, present a “Summary of Air Toxics Permitting and Health Risk Assessment in New York and New Jersey.” The authors examine the history of these two state air toxic programs and recent updates to the program requirements as public interest in air toxic in the region grows.

Continue reading the full August 2020 issue of EM.


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