U.S. EPA Publishes Final Chromium Air Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today published its final rule to significantly tighten air emission standards for chromium electroplating and anodizing operations.

The regulation, which was finalized to meet an August 15, 2012 court-ordered deadline, imposes new stringent air emission limits, lower surface tension levels, new housekeeping practices, and a ban of PFOS-based fume suppressants.

After three years of discussions and data review with NASF, EPA issued the tougher standard under the federal NESHAP (National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants) program even though the agency concluded that the industry’s emissions have dramatically improved since the original 1995 chromium air rule and do not pose a health risk to the public.

NASF reminded EPA at a recent meeting with White House officials that the agency provided no credible rationale for lowering existing limits. NASF has prepared a brief summary of the rule below.

For more detailed information, please email Jeff Hannapel at The Policy Group or call (202) 257-3756.

EPA’s New Chromium Air Emission Requirements

Lower Surface Tension Levels

The rule lowers the required surface tension levels from 35 dynes to 33 when measuring with a tensiometer and from 45 dynes to 40 when measuring with a stalagmometer. NASF does not view this change as a significant revision to the current requirement.

Lower Emission Limits

The new rule has tightened emissions limits to the lowest in the world for both existing and new decorative chromium plating, chromic acid anodizing, and hard chromium plating process. EPA reduced the emissions limits by a range of 25 to 50 percent for existing sources, and all new sources must comply with a new limit of 0.006 mg/dscm, which is 40 to 60 percent lower than the previous limits. Certain facilities are able to meet the new limits, while others may face significant compliance costs.

Please see the table of changes below:

New Limits
Previous Limits
Decorative Chromium Plating
Existing Sources
0.007 mg/dscm
0.010 mg/dscm
New Sources
0.006 mg/dscm
0.010 mg/dscm
Chromic Acid Anodizing
Existing Sources
0.007 mg/dscm
0.010 mg/dscm
New Sources
0.006 mg/dscm
0.010 mg/dscm
Hard Chromium Plating
Existing Sources (small)
0.015 mg/dscm
0.030 mg/dscm
New Sources (small)
0.006 mg/dscm
0.015 mg/dscm
Existing Sources (large)
0.011 mg/dscm
0.015 mg/dscm
New Sources (large)
0.006 mg/dscm
0.015 mg/dscm

Demonstrating Compliance with Emission Limits

Facilities must demonstrate compliance with the new limits by conducting a performance or stack test. Facilities may use a previous performance test to demonstrate compliance with the new emission limits, provided that:

  • the test was conducted after January 25, 1995
  • the source is using the same emission controls that were used during the compliance test
  • the source was operating under conditions that are representative of the conditions under which the source was operating during the compliance test
  • the test was based on approval from a permitting authority

California Housekeeping Practices

Companies must implement the following housekeeping practices designed to minimize chromium emissions, in line with California’s current requirements:

  • substances that include hexavalent chromium must be stored in closed containers
  • take measures to minimize spills of bath solutions
  • install splash guards for spraying operations
  • cleanup or contain spills within one hour of the spill
  • clean surface with HEPA vacuuming, hand-wiping, wet mopping, or hosing down and collecting in wastewater collection system
  • separate buffing, grinding and polishing operations from electroplating and anodizing processes with a physical barrier
  • take measures to minimize fugitive dust emissions

PFOS-based Fume Suppressants Ban

The regulation bans the use of fume suppressants that contain one percent or greater of PFOS by weight.

Effective Dates

The final regulation is effective upon today’s publication in the Federal Register. Facilities must comply with the following provisions of the new standard by the following dates: housekeeping practices – within 60 days of the date of publication in the Federal Register; surface tension levels – within 2 years of the date of publication in the Federal Register; emission limits – within 2 years of the date of publication in the Federal Register; ban of PFOS fume suppressants – within 3 years of the date of publication in the Federal Register

Process for Challenging the Final Rule

The NASF is reviewing the rule closely and is considering a legal challenge to the agency’s action in the final rulemaking package. Petitions for judicial review of the final rule must be submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals within 60 days of the date of publication in the Federal Register. This process can take up to a year or more to complete

In addition, NASF may have an option to submit a petition for reconsideration of the rule to EPA. Pursuing such an option may depend on the Agency’s willingness to entertain such a reconsideration of the rule.

NASF’s Government Advisory Committee is meeting this week to discuss the industry impacts of the final rule. For any questions or additional information on the revised standard, please contact Jeff Hannapel at jhannapel@thepolicygroup.com or 202-257-3756.

Posted in Law & Regulation | Tagged , ,