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US Environmental Protection Agency - Air Quality Division

Government Agencies

Summer; 12 Credit

Work Description

There may be the opportunity to continue into fall semester.

Environmental Law Course is required.

Externs will work in the Air Quality Policy Division (AQPD) of the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards at EPA's campus in RTP.

Desired qualifications for Externs: The student should have taken an environmental law survey course, APA course is preferred but not essential and if there is a student with advanced knowledge of the Clean Air Act or prior experience working on Clean Air Act issues that would be ideal. Excellent writing and analytical skills are also highly desirable.

Areas of Work/Focus

Operating Permits Group: Title V Petitions:

Title V operating permits are legally enforceable documents that permitting authorities issue to air pollution sources after the source has begun to operate. This project would provide experience to an extern in three relevant areas:

  1. Petitions Standard of Review – Work with the permitting staff to develop a paper on the standard of review for title V petitions to be used as input for the Lean Six Sigma improvements project. To complete this project, the student will review the statutory requirements under Title V of the CAA, the Part 70 regulations and recent title V petition responses in order to develop a paper that presents in plain English what constitutes the standard of review (including a discussion of “reasonable specificity”) for title V petition.
  2. Existing Petitions Backlog Analysis – Search the Title V petitions database to analyze the backlogged petitions. Working with the OPG Group Leader and Petitions Team Lead, organize the petitions backlog to help inform of potential innovative approaches to responding to petitions that would streamline the process and help us reduce the backlog. Some possible approaches to this include grouping petitions by the issues raised, age of the petition, whether the permit in question is still active or expired, the facility is no longer in existence, etc. The student should consider these approaches and develop any other legally available alternatives he/she think would be useful. In conjunction with the OPG Group Leader and Petitions Team Lead, select a group of petitions that share common issues to explore the possibility of streamlined methods for responding to these petitions.
  3. Participate in the Development of One or More Petition Response(s) – The student will be assigned as a team member in charge of developing the Administrator’s response to a current title V permit petition. As part of the team, the student will review the petition and any supporting materials, the permit record, Federal regulatory and statutory requirements, state program requirements, and previous petition responses among other documents. The student will participate in team discussions to summarize the petition issues and develop options for addressing them. This includes the development of issue papers, briefing documents and sections of the draft response (Order).

Geographic Strategies Group: Exceptional Events Rule Revisions:

The Exceptional Events Rule of 2007 (72 FR 13560, March 22, 2007) supersedes the EPA’s previous Exceptional Events guidance and policy documents and creates a regulatory process codified at 40 CFR parts 50 and 51 (50.1, 50.14 and 51.930). The Exceptional Events Rule (EER) recognizes that each potential event can have different or unique characteristics, and thus, necessitates a case-by-case demonstration and evaluation. Therefore, the EER adopts a “weight-of-evidence” approach in evaluating each demonstration to justify excluding data affected by an exceptional event. Since 2007, numerous affected air agencies and other stakeholders have asked questions or raised issues related to implementation. Goals for this project will include:

  • reviewing the existing exceptional events rule, underlying Clean Air Act language, related court decisions, current interim guidance, and comments received on guidance
  • identifying potential elements to address/include in rule revisions and identifying supporting case law (e.g., natural events, high wind dust events, final agency action, fire)
  • developing an outline for preamble and rule language
  • assisting with drafting preamble and rule language

New Source Review Group: New Source Review Implementation of Particulate Matter 2.5:

Over the next 18 months, EPA will be developing rules and guidance in response to two recent court decisions affecting New Source Review (NSR) implementation for the particulate matter (PM) 2.5 rule. This includes: 1) vacatur and remand of the existing PM2.5 significant impact levels (SILs) and significant monitoring concentration (SMC) and 2) remand of the 2008 PM2.5 NSR implementation rule based on the requirement to implement the standards under subpart 4 of Title 1, part D of the CAA vs. subpart 1.

Goals for this project, in response to the PM2.5 court decisions, include:

  • legal and regulatory precedent review, EPA regional surveys and state program research
  • assistance developing briefing materials
  • assistance developing guidance and/or rulemaking preamble language

State and Local Programs Group: State and Local Programs Support for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS):

  • Ozone Implementation – EPA wants to explore ways to offer flexibility to states in the regulatory process while assuring that Clean Air Act requirements, including attainment dates, are met as expeditiously as practicable. The extern would need to have or quickly acquire familiarity with the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the associated CFR, previous ozone implementation rules, case law regarding challenges to the previous ozone rules, and the 2004 NRC report Air Quality Management in the United States. This project would build upon work already started in this area and would include interaction with various EPA offices in RTP, as well as Regional Offices and the Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C. Project goal would include identifying regulatory impediments and potential innovations to bypass impediments. A specific area of focus will be to assess the process of development and submittal of state implementation plans (SIPs) by the states to the EPA and identify opportunities for efficiency.
  • Implementation of PM2.5 Standard - The EPA set a new, tighter annual National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in December 2012, and we are now embarking on developing a proposed rule for implementing the new standard. The proposal will lay out specific steps that state and local air agencies need to take to ensure that the statutory requirements for compliance with the revised PM2.5 NAAQS -- and thus the air quality improvement goals of the Clean Air Act -- are met. The rulemaking is unique in that it will be the first implementation rulemaking for a PM2.5 NAAQS developed under Part D, title 1, subpart 4 of the Clean Air Act, in accordance with a recent DC Circuit decision. This recent ruling on the application of subpart 4 has raised a number of novel issues for PM2.5 NAAQS implementation, all of which will need to be addressed in the upcoming proposal. The rulemaking is also unique in that EPA is engaging with state and local air agencies, the "implementers" of the NAAQS, early in the rulemaking development process to seek their input on how to address several key implementation issues and the proposed rule will need to incorporate that input in a meaningful way. This project, which is on a very tight deadline, would allow an extern to get deeply involved in interpreting the Clean Air Act for purposes of implementing the newest PM2.5 NAAQS to achieve critical improvements in air quality for all Americans.
  • Startup, Shutdown, and Malfunction of State Implementation Plan (SIP) Call Project – Assistance is needed in compiling what might be a fairly large number of public comments received on the proposal. Assuming EPA is asked to hold a public hearing on 3/12, the comment period would end 30 days later, in mid-April. This information will be needed to a final rule and Response to Comment document this summer. Goals of this project would include summarizing comments, describing the issues, drafting responses, and tracking of comments.

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