This year’s annual Illinois Manufacturers Association Environment and Energy Conference attracted many attendees and presenters from industry, consultants, and regulatory officials. Notable takeaways included a passionate appeal from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to be patient and proactive on permitting issues as the agency expands its workforce to support Illinois manufacturers’ economic growth and expansion plans. IEPA notes that they seek a partnership with industry rather than an antagonistic relationship and strongly support the state’s development while acknowledging they are bound to federal regulations. The more timely, accurate, and clear permit applications can be prepared, the faster the approval process.
Clean Air Act Changes
Major focuses of the IEPA remain on tracking current and proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which currently designate East St. Louis and Chicago areas as non-attainment zones for ozone and portions of Madison County as non-attainment zones for sulfur dioxide. Proposed reductions in the allowable limits for particulate matter (PM) 2.5 micrometers (µg/m³) under the Clean Air Act, which could go into effect at any time, will result in the designation of additional non-attainment areas in Illinois and, accordingly, far greater difficulty in air permitting for new or expanding facilities. The current annual average primary standard for PM 2.5 is 12 µg/m³, whereas the proposed standard will likely fall to between 9-10 µg/m³.
Permitting and Enforcement of NPDES
Presenters also noted that in Illinois, the IEPA issues National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits rather than the USEPA. However, USEPA can still issue enforcement violations. Furthermore, many wastewater treatment plants have pre-treatment effluent requirements for industrial users to address potential pollution problems as part of their NPDES permits. These requirements will become increasingly strict when/if PFAS are declared a hazardous substance under CERCLA.
Extended Producer Responsibility
Another noteworthy topic was the burgeoning practice of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Much like RCRA, which requires cradle-to-grave tracking of hazardous materials, EPR deals with tracking non-hazardous materials, such as packaging, from creation through disposal with the goal of reducing landfill wastes via industry-subsidized source reduction and recycling programs. While Illinois is not currently one of the six states (California, Colorado, Maine, Oregon, New Jersey, and Washington) with mandated EPR or equivalent laws, multiple bills proposed in Illinois and elsewhere would require these types of programs for many market segments. Manufacturers are considering what steps they would need to take if a similar bill passes in Illinois. Particularly noteworthy is that these laws apply to states where products are distributed, not merely produced.
Sustainability and Decarbonization in the Energy Sector
Finally, presenters from various energy companies and consulting firms spoke about the path forward for sustainability and decarbonization in the energy sector, noting that it must combine natural gas, nuclear power, and traditional renewables like wind and solar to meet customer needs. SCS’s very own Dr. Charles Hostetler spoke on carbon capture methods (such as geologic sequestration of carbon in Class VI wells) and other operational strategies of manufacturers, electric utilities, solid waste facility owners/operators, and other property owners/developers to address the evolving landscape of environmental regulations.
Keep close tabs on new legislation and regulation changes to assure compliance and avoid costly fines or operational delays. Partnerships with environmental consultants who have strong, established relationships with federal, state, and local agencies and have their finger on the pulse of the environmental landscape are the best way to accomplish your goals as the regulatory scene changes.
About the Author: Rachel McShane, LEP, has over 15 years of experience in environmental due diligence projects (Phase I, II and III Environmental Site Assessments) as well as Brownfields redevelopment, risk-based corrective action, and remediation projects. She is familiar with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental assessments, vapor investigations and mitigation, radon, asbestos, lead-based paint surveys, and leachate monitoring/solid waste management. Reach Ms. McShane at or via LinkedIn.
The proposed AERR rule would require nearly 130,000 facilities to report air toxics emissions directly to EPA. It would also give states the option to collect the air toxics data from industry (rather than states) and report it to EPA, provided the Agency approves their program. This proposed action would allow for EPA to annually collect (starting in 2027) hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions data for point sources in addition to continuing the criteria air pollutant and precursor (CAP) collection in place under the existing AERR.
Here are some key things to know about the proposed rule from the EPA website:
1. It would require air toxics (hazardous air pollutant) emissions reporting. While most states voluntarily report air toxics emissions data to EPA now, reporting is not consistent nationwide. The proposal would require many industrial facilities to report air toxics emissions data and offers states the option to report emissions on behalf of the industry sources in their states.
2. It would mean that more facilities must report emissions every year by using the same emissions thresholds every year to determine whether a facility’s detailed emissions information must be reported.
3. It would fill reporting gaps for some portions of Indian country and federal waters. The AERR proposal would require industry to report emissions for certain facilities that operate in those areas and that currently are not reported.
4. It includes provisions to limit the burden on small businesses. The proposal includes flexibilities such as allowing certain small businesses to report a facility’s total air toxics emissions instead of detailed data and exempting many collision repair shops from air toxics reporting requirements.
5. It would provide EPA information that would help the Agency improve its estimates of emissions from prescribed fires. EPA is committed to helping communities and our federal, state, local, and tribal partners manage the health impacts of smoke from wildland fires, including prescribed fires. Prescribed fire is a land management tool that can reduce the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires by reducing the buildup of unwanted fuels.