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EPA Updates Emission Rule for PVC Plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday proposed stronger standards for facilities that produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

The standards (pdf) update emissions limits for toxics such as dioxin and vinyl chloride. The EPA has proposed maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards for emissions sources including PVC process vents, resin processing, equipment leaks, wastewater, heat exchangers, and storage vessels.

Vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen, and children are more sensitive to its cancer risks. The agency said the standards would give facilities flexibility to choose the most practical and cost-effective control technology to reduce their emissions, while improving air quality and protecting public health.

The proposed rule would replace a 2002 EPA regulation for larger emitting PVC production facilities, which was vacated by the District of Columbia Circuit Court as a result of a petition. The new rule would also amend the existing air toxic rule for smaller emitting PVC production facilities, issued in 2007.

The EPA estimates a total capital investment of $16 million, and an annualized cost of $20 million, will be necessary to meet the new rule requirements.

The proposed rule would set emission limits and work practice standards for total organic air toxics, and also for three specific air toxics: vinyl chloride, chlorinated di-benzo dioxins and furans (CDDF), and hydrogen chloride. Reductions under the proposed rule are estimated to be 1,570 tons total HAP, 135 tons of vinyl chloride, 33 tons of hydrogen chloride, and 0.022 gram CDDF.

In contrast, the 2002 rule set an emission limit for vinyl chloride, and used that as a surrogate for all other air toxics.

Under the new rule, facilities would also need to monitor emissions at certain points in the PVC production process to ensure that the standards are met. All existing and any new PVC production facilities would be covered by this proposal.

There are 17 PVC production facilities throughout the U.S.: six in Louisiana, four in Texas, two in New Jersey, and one each in Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri. These facilities manufacture resins used to make a large number of commercial and industrial products, including latex paints, coatings, adhesives, clear plastics, rigid plastics and flooring.

EPA will accept comment on this proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The agency will also hold two public hearings in the Houston and Baton Rouge, La. areas.

In a separate action, EPA is developing standards for the chemical industry that will address air toxics such as dioxins and vinyl chloride. The agency will issue a proposal for these sources later this year.

In depth: Learn about PVC’s use in flooring, paints and other interiors products in issue 19 of EL Insights.

Picture credit: PVC pipe by Pam Broviak

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