EPA Eases Regulations for Ethanol Production Plants

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to apply the same air permitting requirements for facilities that produce ethanol for fuel as those for human consumption. The proposal — which essentially allows facilities to emit more hazardous material into the air — will help the ethanol industry but has raised concerns among clean air advocates.

While the processes of producing ethanol at corn-milling facilities are similar, these facilities are currently treated differently under Clean Air Act permitting programs. This proposal would establish the same emissions limits under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program — 250 tons per year — regardless of whether the ethanol end product is used for fuel or human consumption. Currently, corn-milling facilities that produce fuel and emit less than 100 tons per year of air pollutants are not subject to the PSD permitting program. Conversely, corn-milling facilities that produce products for human consumption do not trigger PSD until they emit more than 250 tons per year. The thresholds for the New Source Review and Title V permitting programs would remain at current levels, which vary from 10 to 100 tons per year depending on the area in which the facility is located. Frank O’Donnell, director of the environmental advocacy group Clean Air Watch, said the rule could “create a new problem by trying to solve an old problem.” EPA will accept comment on this proposal for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

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