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A proposed environmental regulation would update Arkansas' rules to include state laws and federal regulations that go back as far as 1997.

The new regulation won't add a new regulatory program. It will combine four separate air regulations while adding and subtracting sections within them.

Most of the changes are for clarity and consistency, officials have said. But the new regulation will add language incorporating several state laws and federal regulations approved in the past 20 years but never mentioned in the state's environmental regulations, including two laws concerning emissions of the toxic gas hydrogen sulfide and related public health. It also will remove references to regulatory programs that are no longer in effect.

Most entities applying for air permits at the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality already have environmental consultants or other experts who know the rules, regardless of whether they are specified in state regulations, said Stuart Spencer, the department's associate director who oversees the office of air quality.

But having conflicting or outdated information in state regulations is not friendly to anyone else who takes an interest in Arkansas' air regulations, Spencer said.

"We're essentially providing an easier road map for our citizens and for our regulated community," he said.

Glen Hooks, director of the Arkansas chapter of the Sierra Club, said his organization's attorneys looked at the proposal and declined to spend any time or resources on it. He did not explain why.

The department will present a "pre-initiation straw-man" draft of the regulation, which will be called Regulation No. 35 if approved, to the public from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. today at the department's headquarters at 5301 Northshore Drive in North Little Rock. Stakeholders will be invited to provide feedback on the draft at the meeting and until Aug. 20 by emailing AirPlanComments@adeq.state.ar.us, or by mailing Tricia Treece at the department's North Little Rock address.

More information and documents related to the changes are available online at https://www.adeq.state.ar.us/air/planning/streamlining/.

The department has not petitioned to start a rule-making process. To do that, it would need to ask the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission to approve initiating the process to adopt the regulation, receive the governor's approval, go through a public comment period and legislative committees and then be adopted by the commission.

Spencer said department staff don't have a schedule for updating regulations. He said he would support updating them every five years to incorporate changes to National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which change at the federal level every five years in a staggered schedule.

One change to the department's air regulations will be the incorporation of a 1999 law that created limits for how much an entity could be responsible for exposing its workers and the general public to hydrogen sulfide, which can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, poor memory and balance problems, as well as breathing difficulties for people who have asthma.

Those limits are 80 parts of hydrogen sulfide per billion parts of air in residential areas and 100 parts per billion in nonresidential areas, both over eight-hour averaging periods, according to Ark. Code Ann. 8-3-103. Exposure to the smell of hydrogen sulfide, which can occur at less than 1 percent of the concentration limit, can cause dizziness, watery eyes, stuffy nose, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, and sleep problems because of throat irritation and coughing.

That law excludes aspects of major industries from the standards: natural gas gathering and production pipelines and related facilities transporting certain types of gas; brine pipelines that carry natural gas; wastewater treatment facilities; and oil and gas drilling and production operations and facilities.

Paper mills, which are some of the largest emitters of hydrogen sulfide, emit the gas largely through their wastewater treatment processes, which are exempt under the law. Residents of Crossett have complained for decades about hydrogen sulfide, including its odor, coming from the Georgia-Pacific paper mill's wastewater treatment plant there. Tests have measured levels exceeding those limits at the mill.

As written into the straw-man draft, the regulation does not expand upon what is written in the law, Spencer said.

While the limit wasn't incorporated into state regulations, it was enforced, he said, although he found no record of enforcement during his several-year tenure at the department. It could be that no facility subject to law reached those levels, he said.

"It's pretty high," Spencer said. "The concentration is pretty high."

Metro on 06/18/2018

Print Headline: Air regulations update planned; Environmental department proposes adding language from state, U.S. laws

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