Working the Rules

FPA Committee Monitors Workplace Regulations

Working the Rules

FPA’s Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Committee tracks regulatory developments on federal, environmental, and occupational safety regulations and develops action plans to deal with those that could impact the industry.

During the last six months, the committee weighed in on several U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rulemakings that were deemed to affect members’ facility operations. It included support for the agency actions designed to reduce regulatory red tape without compromising protections for public health and the environment. Note that almost every move by the EPA to comply with President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order 13777—requiring federal agencies to “repeal, replace, or modify” existing regulations to reduce the regulatory burden on domestic manufacturers—has met fierce opposition by the environmental community. Regardless of the of presidential election results, it is expected that challenges to these EPA rules will dominate the federal courts in 2021.

Here’s a look at highlights of some of the committee’s recent activities:

  • “Once-in-Always-in” (OIAI) Policy: Based on a policy document published in 1995, EPA maintained that facilities that are a major source of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) must permanently comply with the applicable standard, even if the source subsequently was no longer a major source of HAPs emissions. This policy creates compliance burdens and does not reward the HAPs reduction strategy. Over the years, FPA advocated for the repeal of this unsustainable policy without success. Earlier this year, EPA proposed to reverse the policy and FPA submitted lengthy comments in support of the proposed rule, arguing that the 1995 policy was inconsistent with the plain language of the Clean Air Act and that it punished industries like flexible packaging, which has eliminated most of the hazardous materials from its manufacturing processes. The EPA administrator signed the final rule on Oct. 1, and it will be published shortly. This is a win for the industry and FPA members, as it will allow many of them to now become area sources, thus reducing compliance burden and economic costs.
  • Risk and Technology Review of Paper and Other Web Coatings (POWC) MACT Rule: In response to a consent decree entered with environmental groups, EPA proposed amendments to the POWC Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) Rule in 2020. As required by the Clean Air Act, it examined “residual risk” to the public and the environment from hazardous air pollutants. FPA submitted comments in support of EPA’s finding of no residual risk but was critical of several costly regulatory compliance requirements EPA proposed to strengthen the standard. The rule affects FPA members, and it is likely to set the baseline for the Printing and Publishing MACT, which also affects many members. FPA has been working with EPA for several years on the rulemaking, including arranging site visits to educate the rule writers, which resulted in a better understanding at EPA of flexible packaging operations and established that existing controls provide an ample margin of safety, thus meriting no additional pollution controls. This finding in the final rule is a win for FPA. It should also be noted that FPA was also able to get a favorable resolution to the stringency of compliance monitoring and testing requirements.
  • Technical Support Document (TSD): FPA worked with EPA for over three years dialoguing flexible permitting and periodic monitoring requirements for oxidizers. The final guidance document, “Title V Printing and Publishing TSD,” was adopted by the agency, allowing FPA members to negotiate less-burdensome Clean Air Act permits, while providing an abundance of environmental protection and safety to surrounding communities without the need for costly continuous monitoring requirements. Under the President’s December 2019 Executive Order requiring all agencies to make binding guidance documents available on their respective websites, FPA forwarded the TSD to EPA for posting, which happened despite some pushback from some environmental groups.
  • Undertaking Construction Before Getting a Clean Air Act Permit: Over the years FPA has argued, without much success, that the Clean Air Act requires a permit only for the construction of “emitting units” and that the construction of non-emitting facilities such as foundations, electrical conduits, and ancillary equipment should be allowed to proceed at the owner’s risk before issuance of the permit. However, EPA has maintained that only the most basic preconstruction activities, such as leveling a property, were allowed until a permit was issued. The agency has now proposed a revised interpretation of the law that would allow on-site construction activities, except the installation of emissions units, prior to issuance of the final permit. If finalized, companies will be able to lay electrical cables, dig footings, and lay foundations, for example. This will be at their own risk, however, as air permits may be denied for the new source, even though history shows that is highly unlikely. Nevertheless, given the fact that a permit can take up to two years from the time the application is deemed complete, many companies may be willing to accept the risk.
  • Nationwide Multi-Sector General Stormwater Permit (MGSP): Recently, EPA proposed amendments to the Nationwide Stormwater Permit requirements. Most FPA members are subject to this either directly or by the adoption of the rule by individual states. The proposal adds very stringent in-house stormwater sampling requirements and increased mitigation measures to prevent contamination and migration of contaminants into stormwater. Additionally, it requires placarding in front of a plant with permit details and contact information for the public to report federal and state violations. FPA did a thorough review of the amendments and submitted comments supporting the adoption of very few amendments and strongly argued against placarding, as it is open to abuse by hostile neighbors.
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl (“PFAS”): There is significant movement at the state and federal levels to ban/regulate the use and reporting of PFAS. As part of the EPA-PFAS action plan, the agency has proposed regulations on imported products that contain PFAS chemicals used as surface coatings. The EPA also added certain PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements without scientific evidence. Companies are now required to report the release of PFAS into the environment, with the first report due on July 1, 2021. In addition, EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics is undertaking a risk assessment of several classes of PFAS to determine future regulatory actions.
  • NAPIM Ink Migration Project: FPA is collaborating with the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) to establish that inks used in package printing comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) migration limits and thereby should be exempt from food contact additive regulations. The committee met with the FDA and received positive feedback on the project approach and risk assessment methodology. It is a lengthy process, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made the time for completion of the project uncertain.

The EHS committee typically meets in person quarterly, but due to the pandemic, the committee is conducting its business via Zoom meetings and conference calls. Each meeting agenda provides an in-depth analysis of regulatory issues, development of action plans, and an opportunity for members to share experiences and insights on these and related issues. FPA will continue to monitor regulatory developments and act as necessary, while also joining other industry coalitions to collectively address issues of mutual concern.

Dani Diehlmann is communications director at FPA.