Toxic Air Emissions-Time to Tally


1/19/2017 by Jeanette Schuster

Toxic Air Emissions-Time to Tally
On January 6, I attended a Q&A session by lawyers and technical experts designed to help business entities prepare responses to an information request by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality ("DEQ") under the agency's new air toxics program called Cleaner Air Oregon (see that was launched in April 2016. Specifically, DEQ has requested hundreds of Oregon businesses to provide information on annual production and materials usage, and a certain subset of businesses to prepare air emissions inventories (excluding dry cleaners or gasoline dispensing facilities). This is no small task because the list of chemicals that must be evaluated numbers over 600.
Under its new program, DEQ has to know what's being emitted into Oregon's air, and the only way it can find out is to ask all of the businesses operating in Oregon what and how much of certain chemicals they are emitting into the air. Sounds easy, right? Who doesn't know how much 2-Amino-9h-pyrido [2,3-b]indole their business is emitting? Or carrageenan? Or Disperse Blue 1?
The seminar itself was only moderately helpful because it did not provide any of the rudimentary, basic steps for how to respond. Instead, it plunged head-first into the weeds of air emission calculations. While that will unfortunately be necessary too at some point, for many business owners/operators holding a copy of DEQ's letter right now the main question probably is: "where do I start?" Having that piece of the puzzle might just be the key to begin navigating this complex new regulatory scheme. Burying your head in the sand is not an option, by the way…depending on the type of permit held, the first set of responses could be due at the end of March.
My answer to every project, no matter how big or small, is always the same—make a list! For starters, make a list of every tool, piece of equipment or process that generates air emissions. From this list, make a list of products and raw materials that go into those items or processes. From this list, make a list of…you get the picture!