Yesterday the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power passed the discussion draft of the Promoting New Manufacturing Act on a bipartisan 14-8 vote. Chairman Whitfield stated:
“We need to create jobs, and one way to do this is by promoting manufacturing. I agree that we must have a ‘can do’ attitude as Obama said last week, but we must have ‘can do’ opportunities for the American people and the spirit of this country.”
The bill seeks to improve the process of preconstruction air quality permits in the U.S. by addressing the need for expediting the process and providing greater transparency of the approval timeline by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
NAM vice president of energy and resources Ross Eisenberg testified before the Subcommittee during a hearing on the bill on May 21. Eisenberg shared how NAM members are frequently discouraged by the New Source Review (NSR) program in the Clean Air Act from building new or modifying existing “major sources” as the attainment of the permit alone can take several years. Each permit is issued by the state air quality control agency, which means the process varies from state to state, and the best available control technology (BACT) they must install is selected on a case-by-case basis for each facility. The discussion draft proposed by the Subcommittee would require the EPA to publish data on the number of permits issued annually, and the length of time it takes to get a permit approved, to ensure that if there is an issue Congress and the EPA will be able to asses and improve the process. And it would require that any new guidance or regulation implementing a revised NAAQS, such as the ground-level Ozone revision expected in 2015, would be published concurrently with the new standard, or would not affect preconstruction permits currently in consideration until they are published.
“As a consequence of the 2009 Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and the ensuing Light-Duty Vehicle GHG Rule, the EPA extended the reach of NSR to GHGs. Sensing an immediate problem—PSD for GHGs at the statutorily required levels would expose six million buildings to preconstruction permitting—the agency issued the GHG Tailoring Rule, which raised the NSR/PSD thresholds for GHGs. The agency estimated that, even at the GHG Tailoring Rule levels, it would still need to issue 900 PSD permits per year for GHGs. However, recent information from the EPA shows that in the three-plus years since NSR/PSD was extended to GHGs, only 166 permits have been issued in total. That is a stunning drop-off in PSD permits, one for which the agency does not seem to have an easy answer. Manufacturers fear that PSD for GHGs may be acting as a deterrent to new construction.”
The manufacturing comeback is reliant on an Administration that understands the need for a streamlined and transparent permitting process to allow for them to apply for permits and build new, or renovate existing facilities, without an unknown length of time passing for their approval. In the time it may take for a permit to be approved, a new EPA standard could be put in place midstream, and with the project no longer being viable, force the company to abandon the project or face higher costs and longer timelines to make the adjustments. The NAM will continue to advocate for an NSR process that encourages new investment by manufacturers, while offering them a reliable and efficient permit process.
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