Environmental Management Assistance Program

DEP Interim Final Environmental Justice Policy

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced an Interim Final Environmental Justice Policy to enhance permit application reviews and outreach in environmental justice areas across the Commonwealth. In addition, DEP introduced the advanced PennEnviroScreen mapping tool. This tool redefines environmental justice areas using 32 indicators related to environment, health, and socioeconomic factors.

Key highlights include the classification of projects into two categories: Public Participation Trigger Projects and Public Participation Opt-In Projects.

Covered Projects

Permit applications requiring enhanced public participation include NPDES industrial wastewater facilities, new major sources of air pollutants, waste permits for disposal facilities, mining permits, individual land application permits, and certain Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.

Projects that may qualify for enhanced Opt-In status include plan approvals for significant air pollution sources, resource recovery facilities, sludge processing sites, large sewage treatment plants, transfer stations, recycling facilities, scrap metal facilities, landfills, medical waste incinerators, underground injection wells tied to Oil and Gas development, and other projects as determined by the community.

Starting September 16, the PennEnviroScreen tool becomes essential for permit applications. Small businesses and communities will be empowered to make informed decisions about environmental considerations.

Opportunity for Public Comment

DEP has stated that the Interim Final EJ Policy will come into effect as soon as it’s published in the PA Bulletin on September 16. This publication will kickstart a formal public comment period that runs until October 29.

Public comments can be made through DEP’s eComment portal once available.

The policy also empowers community members and DEP staff to request Enhanced Public Participation for projects not covered under Public Participation Trigger Projects. The PennEnviroScreen will guide these determinations, taking into account community concerns and environmental impacts.

Compliance & Enforcement

Furthermore, the policy outlines an Enforcement and Compliance Team to prioritize inspections and compliance actions in environmental justice areas. This initiative aims to ensure timely responses to violations, effective collaboration, and responsible enforcement.

Small businesses can learn more about environmental justice here.

Implications of the AERR Proposed Rule for Small Businesses

Running a small business comes with its own set of challenges and responsibilities, particularly when it comes to regulatory compliance. One such regulation that could potentially impact small businesses is the Air Emissions Reporting Requirements (AERR) proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While it might sound like a distant concern, it’s important for small business owners to grasp the potential complexities and implications of this rule.

The AERR Proposed Rule: What You Need to Know

The AERR proposed rule aims to tighten reporting requirements for businesses concerning their emissions of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs). While the rule might seem complex, its essence can be understood quite simply. The EPA is looking to mandate that businesses, with a few possible exceptions, report each individual HAP emission that surpasses a specific threshold unique to that particular HAP. To illustrate this, let’s consider a couple of examples. For a substance like styrene, businesses would need to report any emissions exceeding 10 tons per year. On the other hand, substances like Chromium (VI) and Chromium Trioxide have a much lower reporting threshold – only emissions surpassing 0.24 lbs per year would need to be reported.

Varied Reporting Thresholds and Impacts

For common HAPs like toluene, the reporting threshold might align closely with that of styrene – meaning that emissions need to be substantial before reporting is required. However, this is not the case across the board. The disparity between reporting levels for substances like styrene and chromium highlights a significant aspect of the rule – certain businesses might now need to report emissions at extremely low levels. This represents a major shift for some small businesses that have never encountered such stringent requirements.

Challenges for Small Businesses

The implications for small businesses could be considerable. Many small businesses may find themselves in the position of having to report emissions for the first time. This could be due to the fact that their emission levels, which were previously considered negligible, now require reporting. This shift poses potential challenges, as some of these businesses might not have the necessary recordkeeping systems in place to facilitate the reporting process. It’s important to note that, in many cases, permits for these businesses might already require a certain level of recordkeeping, especially if they are subject to National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). However, the enhanced reporting requirements of the AERR rule could demand a higher level of precision and documentation than what these businesses are accustomed to.

Navigating the Way Forward

Thankfully, the EPA is aware of the complexities these changes might introduce, especially for small businesses. In response, they are offering support through a series of webinars designed to provide businesses with a clear understanding of the AERR proposal and its potential impacts. These webinars could prove invaluable for small business owners seeking clarity on the new reporting requirements and how best to adapt to them.

In Summary

The AERR proposed rule might appear complex and distant, but its potential impact on small businesses should not be underestimated. As reporting thresholds for Hazardous Air Pollutant emissions tighten, businesses – both large and small – need to be prepared for the changes ahead. The EPA’s efforts to provide resources through webinars is a step in the right direction, offering businesses the guidance they need to navigate the shifting regulatory landscape. Small businesses should take advantage of these resources to ensure that they can adapt effectively to the new reporting requirements and continue to thrive in a compliant manner. To find out more about the AERR proposal and the upcoming webinars, visit the official EPA website: https://www.epa.gov/air-emissions-inventories/air-emissions-reporting-requirements-aerr.

Comments on this proposed rule must be received on or before October 18, 2023.

EPA Proposes Rule to Lead-Based Paint Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put forward a proposal to enhance requirements for dealing with lead-based paint hazards in buildings constructed before 1978 and child-care facilities. This proposed rule aims to safeguard children and communities from the harmful effects of lead paint dust exposure.

Approximately 39,000 small businesses, including landlords, owners and operators of child-occupied facilities, residential remodelers, abatement firms, real estate agents, and brokers, would be directly affected by this rule.

The proposed rule seeks to strengthen EPA regulations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by revising two key standards:

  1. Dust-Lead Hazard Standards (DLHS): These standards identify hazardous lead levels in dust found on floors and windowsills.
      • The proposal intends to lower the DLHS from the current 10 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2) for floors and 100 µg/ft2 for windowsills to any reportable level greater than zero. This change acknowledges that no level of lead in dust has been deemed safe for children.
  2. Dust-Lead Clearance Levels (DLCL): These levels indicate the maximum amount of lead allowed in dust on floors, window sills, and window troughs after lead removal activities.
    • The proposal aims to reduce the DLCL from 10 µg/ft2 to 3 µg/ft2 for floors, from 100 µg/ft2 to 20 µg/ft2 for windowsills, and from 400 µg/ft2 to 25 µg/ft2 for window troughs. These are considered the lowest dust-lead levels that the EPA believes can be reliably and effectively achieved after abatement activities.

To comply with this proposed rule, property owners, lead-based paint professionals, and government agencies will use DLHS to identify dust-lead hazards in residential and childcare facilities built before 1978. If any lead-based paint activities, like abatement, are carried out, individuals and firms must be certified and follow specific work practices set by EPA’s Lead-Based Paint Activities Program. After abatement, testing is required to ensure dust lead levels are below the DLCL before considering the abatement complete.

The EPA is inviting public comments on this proposal for 60 days via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2023-0231 at www.regulations.gov.

Upcoming Lead-Based Paint Virtual Workshop

In October, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) plan to conduct a virtual public workshop to gather stakeholder perspectives on specific topics related to low levels of lead in existing paint. This includes potential health effects, the relationship between lead-based paint and dust-lead, possible exposure pathways, and technologies for detecting, measuring, and characterizing low levels of lead in paint.

The EPA and HUD are also interested in any available information on lead-based paint characteristics and medical evidence related to low levels of lead in paint. The insights shared during the workshop will help inform their joint effort to revisit the federal definition of lead-based paint and revise it if needed.

For more information, check for updates on the Lead-Based Paint Virtual Workshop.

EPA Proposes Ban on Perchloroethylene: Implications for Small Businesses

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a significant action under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) with a proposed ban on perchloroethylene. The proposed ban on most uses of perchloroethylene (PCE), a chemical known to pose serious health risks, aims to protect individuals from neurotoxicity and cancer. While consumer uses of PCE would be banned, many industrial and commercial uses would continue under stringent workplace controls. In this post, we will explore the implications of this proposed ban for small businesses, particularly those in the dry cleaning industry.

Protecting Public Health:

The EPA’s proposal reflects the recognition of the dangers associated with PCE exposure. By banning consumer uses and implementing strict workplace controls, the EPA aims to minimize the health risks posed by this chemical. The proposed ban considers the health and safety of workers, occupational non-users, consumers, and communities near facilities utilizing PCE.

Impact on Small Businesses:

The proposed ban on PCE usage will have a significant impact on small businesses, particularly those operating in the dry cleaning industry. Dry cleaners, many of which are small businesses, have traditionally relied on PCE as a solvent in their operations. However, the 10-year phaseout period provided in the proposal allows these businesses some time to consider a transition to alternative processes.

Economic Analysis

EPA estimates that 6,000 dry cleaners still use PCE, a majority of which are small businesses. It is still unclear as to the impact of a prohibition of PCE for dry cleaning through a gradual phaseout. EPA has not been able to reliably estimate the number of dry cleaning facility closures that may be associated with this phaseout. However, after the results of an economic analysis, EPA expects some closures because EPA estimates that only about 60 PCE machines are expected to be in use at the end of the proposed phaseout period given the age of the machines and the declining trend of use.

EPA believes that almost no new PCE machines have been brought into service in recent years and therefore most existing dry cleaning machines using PCE are old and will no longer be in service by the proposed phaseout date. 

EPA requests comment on these estimated impacts to the dry cleaning industry, including regarding expected closures. In addition to dry cleaners, additional users of PCE (such as in vapor degreasing) could be strongly impacted because they may have no economical alternative to the use of PCE.

Transitioning to TSCA Compliant Practices:

Small businesses, including dry cleaners, may face economic challenges during the transition away from PCE. To mitigate these impacts, President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget request includes funding for pollution prevention grants. These grants aim to support small businesses in adopting TSCA compliant practices and facilitate the shift away from PCE usage. Dry cleaners can explore these grant opportunities to aid in their transition and ensure compliance with the proposed regulations.

Feasibility and Efficacy of Worker Protections:

The EPA encourages stakeholders to provide input on the proposed rule, especially regarding the feasibility and efficacy of the worker protection requirements. Small businesses and other entities affected by the proposed workplace chemical protection program can contribute their perspectives on the implementation process and the timeline for phasing out PCE usage in dry cleaning operations. The EPA will host a public webinar in the coming weeks, providing an opportunity for employers, workers, and interested parties to learn more about the proposed regulations and engage in discussions.

Providing Comments on the Proposal

EPA will accept public comments on the proposed rule for PCE for 60 days, or until August 15th, which can be done in the Federal Register via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2020-072.  Pennsylvania small businesses can also speak with a member of the EMAP team if so desired.

Public Comment Period for Ethylene Oxide Emission Standards

EPA is proposing amendments to the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for the Ethylene Oxide (EtO) Commercial Sterilization Facilities source category.  EPA’s proposed rule would regulate parts of a commercial sterilizer facility that have not been regulated previously. This includes more stringent controls for sources of EtO emissions that currently regulated and would require facilities to continuously monitor air pollution control equipment and conduct performance testing.

Commercial sterilization facilities play a vital role in maintaining an adequate supply of medical devices.  EPA has identified 86 facilities that are in current operation with 20 of these facilities being recognized as a small business.

Comments must be received on or before June 27, 2023.  In addition, EPA will hold virtual public hearings on May 2 and May 3, 2023.

EPA Seeking Public Comment on the Inflation Reduction Act

EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation is seeking public comment on a set of non-regulatory dockets on various programs and grants related to the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act.  The public, including small businesses, may comment on these dockets through January 18, 2023. More information on this Request for Information can be found here. Topics of the non-regulatory dockets include the following the areas:
  • Climate Pollution Reduction Grants
  • Funding to Address Air Pollution
  • Methane Emissions Reduction Program
  • Funding for Implementation of American Innovation and Manufacturing Act
  • Low Emissions Electricity Program & Greenhouse Gas Corporate Reporting

EPA Taking Comments on SNAP Program

On July 28, 2022, pursuant to the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, EPA proposed to list certain substances as acceptable subject to use conditions in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector for chillers – comfort cooling, residential dehumidifiers, non-residential dehumidifiers, residential and light commercial air conditioning, and heat pumps, and a substance as acceptable subject to use conditions and narrowed use limits in very low temperature refrigeration. Through this action, EPA proposes to establish requirements for electrical air conditioners, heat pumps, and dehumidifiers, laboratory equipment containing refrigerant, safe use of flammable refrigerants, and safe design, construction, installation, and operation of refrigeration systems. In addition, EPA proposes to list certain substances as acceptable subject to use conditions in the fire suppression sector for certain streaming and total flooding uses. EPA requests advance comment on potential approaches to SNAP listing decisions for very short-lived substances that have ozone depletion potentials similar to those of ozone-depleting substances scheduled to be phased out. Comments are due September 12, 2022Learn more.

EPA seeks small business input on proposed TSCA rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking for small businesses to participate on a panel that will focus on the development of a proposed rule that will focus on potential risks from existing chemicals.  This rule will collect data in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluation and risk management process. To learn more about this opportunity please see this recently published press release by EPA. Small business self-nominations may be submitted through this link and must be received by July 20, 2022.


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Jeremy Hancher is the EMAP Program Manager located at the Widener University SBDC.  He holds over 15 years of experience in environmental compliance, environmental policy, and program management.  He is proud to be the team lead of the award-winning EMAP program which provides free and confidential environmental assistance to the Pennsylvania small business community in fulfillment of the requirements of the Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act and Section 507 of the federal Clean Air Act.
In 2015, Jeremy was part of the team effort when EMAP was recognized by US EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for Outstanding Accomplishments by a State Small Business Environmental Assistance Provider in Providing Technical Environmental Assistance to the Small Business Community. Jeremy holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a certificate from the Wharton School.
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