Northern Virginia has historically experienced the highest ozone (smog) concentrations in the state, and has been in nonattainment with the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone since the passage of the Clean Air Act. with a high of 74 high ozone days in 1991—compared to just one such day in 2022. However, air quality in Northern Virginia has improved dramatically; the region has reduced the number of days not meeting the ozone standard from 74 in 1991 to only one in 2022. And for the past four years, the residents of Northern Virginia have been breathing air that meets the Clean Air Act’s standards. Earlier this month, DEQ along with the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland, asked EPA for a “Clean Data Determination” for the region.
“We are hopeful EPA will approve our request for a Clean Data Determination,” said Air and Renewable Energy Director Michael Dowd. “This would be the first step in EPA’s process to have Northern Virginia be formally designated in attainment with the Clean Air Act’s air quality standard for ozone and serves to recognize that the residents of the region are breathing clean air.”
HB206 Small Renewable Energy Impact on Natural Resources Report Released
Following the establishment of an advisory panel to assist with developing regulations under the small renewable energy permit-by-rule (PBR) program, DEQ released its report to the Governor and General Assembly addressing ways to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate damage to prime agricultural soil and forest caused by the construction and operation of renewable energy solar projects. The work group will reconvene at a later date to assist DEQ in further developing regulations regarding impacts to prime agricultural soils or forest lands and criteria for PBR applicants to mitigate impacts.
States Recognized for Reducing Permit Noncompliance
EPA announced that a major milestone has been reached in reducing the rate of significant noncompliance for individual Clean Water Act permits (NPDES permits) throughout the country. Virginia served as co-chair for the EPA initiative established to reduce rates of significant noncompliance by 50% nationally, from 20% in 2018 to 9% now. Thanks to DEQ's robust compliance assistance and enforcement programs, Virginia continues to serve as an example for our peers, and has a significant noncompliance rate of about 4%-- much lower than the national average.
Air Permitting – New Site Suitability Form for Localities
The 2022 General Assembly amended the section of the Virginia Air Pollution Control Law that addresses “site suitability.” These amendments grant localities, instead of DEQ, the ability to determine if a specific site is suitable for the type of industry/process that wishes to locate within their jurisdictions.
For many years, localities have been requested to complete a Local Government Certification Form that specifically looks at whether the location has been appropriately zoned for any new facility that may emit air pollution. This section of the Air Pollution Control Law (§10.1321.1) is independent from the section defining site suitability (§10-1307E.). The difference in the two sections of the code made it necessary for DEQ to develop two separate forms since the two sections are addressing similar but different requirements.
Most air permits are pre-construction permits, meaning the source must have been issued the permit prior to commencing construction. For a new facility, both forms should be completed and submitted to DEQ as part of the company’s permit application. Without a suitability statement from the locality, either by completing DEQ’s form or another method used by the locality, the source’s permit will be delayed which in turn delays construction. It is the applicant’s responsibility to work with the local government to complete the forms as part of their application.
The Site Suitability form is located on the DEQ website.
Solid Waste Alternate Concentration Limits Updated
An updated Default 10e-6 Alternate Concentration Limits (ACL) Table has been posted to the DEQ website. The new, updated ACL Table issued as “Draft” reflects the updates in the EPA Regional Screening Level Table through May 2022 and will become effective Jan. 1, 2023. Values were updated for acetone, p-cresol, and ethyl chloride (chloroethane). The constituents with updated values are not believed to be common at solid waste facilities, so there are no anticipated impacts to the solid waste landfill groundwater monitoring programs within Virginia. If you have technical questions regarding the development of ACLs, please contact Kyle Newman by email or phone at (804) 659-1322. For questions regarding the effect of the ACL in groundwater monitoring or corrective action, please contact your regional office or the program Coordinator, Geoff Christe at by email or phone at (804) 912-3674.
Air Board Approves Proposed RGGI Regulation
The State Air Pollution Control Board approved a proposed regulation for public comment that will enable the Commonwealth to take the next steps toward exiting the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is a multi-state cap-and-trade program that reduces emissions from fossil fuel-burning power plants but has resulted in increased electricity costs for consumers. A 60-day public comment period will begin once the proposed regulation has been posted on the Virginia Register of Regulations.
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