U.S. grain elevator emission changes under review

by Susan Reidy
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Grain groups oppose counting temporary storage in capacity totals.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule update first proposed in 2014 that would change particulate matter emission standards for grain elevators has been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.

The updates to the new source performance standard (NSPS) include new emission limits for certain grain elevators; additional testing, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements; different compliance requirements for periods of start-up, shutdown and malfunction; and new method for addressing temporary storage facilities.

The changes were based on an 8-year review by the EPA, and included input from a coalition of grain organizations that included the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), the Corn Refiners Association, the North American Millers Association, the National Oilseed Processors Association, USA Rice and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.  

The EPA has completed its review of the comments received on the changes, and submitted the rule to the OMB on Oct. 24 for a 90-day interagency review. The coalition of grain associations wants to meet with the OMB as soon as possible to discuss the proposal, said Jess McCluer, vice-president of safety and regulatory affairs for the NGFA.

When that will happen, or how quickly the OMB will begin its review process, is somewhat up in the air given the U.S. general election and the short amount of time left in the Obama administration, McCluer said.

NGFA Jess McCluer VP of Safety Reg Affairs
Jess McCluer, vice-president of safety and regulatory affairs for the NGFA.
“All we know is that OMB has it,” he said. “As far as whether they’ve begun the review process, we don’t know. We have put in a request to schedule a meeting for as soon as possible.” 

A major concern for the coalition is the way the proposal accounts for temporary grain storage. It says 34% of a facility’s temporary storage would count toward permanent storage capacity, McCluer said. For example, a facility with 1 million bushels of temporary storage would have to count 340,000 bushels of that as permanent storage capacity.

“This percentage could potentially push facilities over the current threshold,” he said. “Then they would have to be compliant with the burdensome air emissions standards that they are currently exempt from.”

He added that compliance costs would amount to about $52,000 per year.

The NSPS applies to any commercial grain elevator constructed after 1978 with a permanent storage capacity exceeding 2.5 million bushels. It also applies to grain storage elevators with permanent storage capacity of more than 1 million bushels that are located at wheat flour mills, wet or dry corn mills, rice mills or soybean oil extraction plants.

In their comments, the grain organizations recommended the EPA exclude grain storage elevators at certain grain processing plants; raise the capacity minimums from 1 million and 2.5 million bushels to 3.5 million and 8.8 million bushels; and continue to exclude temporary storage from the calculation of permanent storage. 

McCluer said he was not aware of any specific changes from what the EPA first proposed in 2014.

“We will have to wait and see the final rule,” he said.

The EPA said it estimates that the NSPS changes would reduce emissions of coarse particle pollution by 31 tons per year. It said the capital costs for the upgraded monitoring and testing would have capital costs of $970,000 and an annual cost of $1.1 million per year across facilities in the industry.

As part of the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to set new source performance standards that limit the amount of air pollution from new sources or modified existing sources. The primary purpose is to help areas attain and maintain national air quality standards.

The EPA said there are about 900 grain elevators in the U.S. that are subject to the current NSPS, which controls emissions of particle pollution from a number of points at these facilities.
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