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EPA Announces Voluntary Program for Flexible Permit Holders

Release Date: 09/20/2010
Contact Information: Dave Bary at 214-665-2200 or r6press@epa.gov

(Dallas, Texas – September 20, 2010) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its voluntary Audit Program to help companies with Flexible Permits obtain air quality permits that meet state and federal requirements and the protections of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The TCEQ's Flexible Permits program was never approved by EPA into the state implementation plan (SIP).

"Our main objective is to get each and every permit holder a federally approved permit issued by the TCEQ," said Regional Administrator Al Armendariz. "The program benefits companies by providing liability protection, and benefits communities by identifying clear enforceable pollution limits and developing projects to mitigate past environmental impacts. It's a real win-win."

The Audit Program will offer a covenant from civil enforcement by the federal government, for instances where companies with Flexible Permits operated outside of federal requirements provided that companies agree to and complete the proposed audit program. In addition, companies who enter the audit will no longer be subject to EPA's use of Title V tools for permits issued that do not contain all CAA requirements.

The Audit Program is available for 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. Participants who sign up in the first 45 days can take advantage of a reduced penalty incentive for potential violations.

Under the program, a third-party auditor will conduct an independent review of operations, modifications, and permitting activities that occurred since the issuance of the flexible permit, so that the federally-applicable requirements can be identified for a new permit. These independent findings would be directly transmitted to the company and EPA and used to establish new limits in state-issued permits. EPA anticipates the audit process to take about one year.

The Audit Program requires participants to obtain federally-approved state permits from the TCEQ. A company would enter into a Consent Agreement and Final Order with EPA based on the findings of the third-party audit. This audit program and CAFO would resolve any New Source Review non-compliance issues that occurred while operating with the Flexible Permit provided that the companies complete the audit program.

The Audit Program encourages companies to sponsor local community projects that will bring environmental and public health benefits to the people impacted by their daily operations.

The federal audit program is one of two paths available today for companies to transition their flexible permits to a permit that meets federal and state requirements. EPA is also inviting companies to contact the EPA Region 6 Compliance Assurance and Enforcement Division if they are interested in more direct negotiations with EPA that would result in federally-enforceable permits and resolution of non-compliance and Title V uncertainty.

EPA is also discussing with TCEQ the structure for a state-operated program, with EPA concurrence, that would transition flexible permits to permits that meet federal and state requirements. Discussions are ongoing, but the program is not yet available.
EPA proposed the Audit Program in June 2010. The program was published in the Federal Register for public comment which closed on July 2, 2010. The final program incorporates changes based on comments received.

The Audit Program will be published in the Federal Register within 10 days of today's announcement. The Audit Program is available for 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. A copy of the Audit Program is immediately available on the website at http://www.epa.gov/region6 .

More about activities in EPA Region 6: http://www.epa.gov/region6

EPA audio file is available at http://www.epa.gov/region6/6xa/podcast/sep2010.html

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