Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Air Time: Rounding up some air quality issues

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Ecology is working to delay the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of biomass and other biofuels to fall in line with federal rules.

Ecology recently updated two rules, Chapters 173-400 and 173-401 WAC, to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “tailoring rule.” This “tailoring rule” phases in regulation of greenhouse gases.

The EPA rule, however, sparked controversy over its treatment of greenhouse gases produced by the burning of biomass and biofuels. As a result, EPA now says it will amend its rule to temporarily defer greenhouse gas permitting requirements for sources that burn biomass and other biologically based fuels.

Once EPA’s amendments take effect, state rules will be inconsistent and could lead businesses to have to meet two sets of reporting and permitting standards. Ecology’s rule-making process will bring state rules in line with EPA and save affected businesses from having to meet different regulatory requirements.

Other topics:

Sulfur dioxide standard

In June 2010, EPA changed standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions. EPA lowered the one-hour average standard from 400 parts per billion to 75 parts per billion.

Ecology proposes to designate the entire state as “unclassifiable” since there is not enough information to demonstrate whether the state meets or does not meet the new standard.

Historically, Washington has measured very low levels of SO2. Because the levels were so low, most monitoring was stopped. Ecology does not expect to have any areas of the state exceed the new SO2 standard, but we plan to eventually establish two new monitors to confirm that assumption.

SO2 emissions have dropped over the past 20 years. That’s because control measures were added for some sources, some larger SO2 sources shut down, and the sulfur content of gasoline and diesel fuel was cut by nearly 90 percent.

Ecology will schedule a public hearing on this decision if the public requests one by May 26. To find out how to request a hearing, contact Laurie Hulse-Moyer at For more information, check here for Ecology’s public involvement calendar.

Agreement with EPA

Ecology is accepting public comments on the draft of a new Performance Partnership Agreement with EPA’s Region 10.

The agreement details contractual commitments between Ecology and EPA, including those involving air quality issues.
You can find the draft agreement here. And here’s how to comment on it.

DNR burn ban

The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently announced that a burn ban starts July 1 on all DNR-protected lands.

The ban, which is meant to limit the threat of wildfires sparked by outdoor burning, will continue through Sept. 3o. It does not apply to recreational fires in fire pits at campgrounds or to DNR’s own prescribed burns for forest health purposes.

Here’s a DNR news release on the ban.

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