On April 11, 2008, a group of concerned cities, companies and citizens filed comments regarding the EPA’s proposed revisions to the General Conformity Regulations (see earlier post “EPA Proposes Revisions to General Conformity Rules). To see the Group’s actual Comment letter as filed, click here.
The General Conformity Rules, which the EPA promulgated in 1993 and has not substantially updated since then, require Federal agencies to evaluate the effect their actions will have on air quality prior to their taking any such action. The Group expressed concern that the revisions that the EPA was suggesting took away some of the protection that the Clean Air Act granted citizens in section 176 (42 U.S.C. 7506). In addition, the Comment letter stated that the EPA:
- should not allow Federal agencies, in certain instances, to shift the burden of proving that the project conforms to the SIP onto “third parties” (that is, the communities) and the EPA.
- should not allow Federal agencies to obtain permission to emit air pollutants without any connection to a particular project thereby eliminating the need for them to analyze air quality when they undertake projects. Thus, emission increases are effectively hidden in the SIP, unseen and unanalyzed by the communities.
- should not allow the Federal agencies to unilaterally decide when an analysis is necessary, rather than requiring them to perform an analysis every time.
- should add a definition of applicability analysis.
- should delete the “presumed to conform” program, since only one agency has taken advantage of it in 15 years and it most likely violates the Clean Air Act and the Constitution.
At the public hearing on this matter on March 14, 2008, William Becker, Executive Director for the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, an organization of state and local air pollution agencies, gave testimony. Mr. Becker stated that the revisions assured “the virtual elmination of what little effectiveness there is in this already weak rule.” His comments mirrored the comments made by the Group. In addition, he stated that the organization objected to:
- allowing project applicants to segregate project emissions among two different air quality management areas;
- changing the definition of “temporary” to apply to activities as long as five years;
- eliminating “regional signficance,” instead the 10% threshold should be lowered “to a more meaningful level;”
- exempting emissions from aircraft operations above 3,000 feet.
For a full list of other comments by other Commenters, click here.