According to a new release on, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has rejected the National Association for Surface Finishing's request to revise its air toxics rule for chromium electroplating facilities after disagreeing with the sector's claim that the rule is unsupported by science. This has prompted NASF and the agency to ask a federal appeals court to resume briefing in related lawsuits over the rule.

The agency's denial of the petition for administration reconsideration, dated March 28 and published in the April 19 Federal Register, rejects calls from NASF to soften its updated chromium electroplating national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP), reports. In the rule, finalized Sept. 19, EPA tightened emission limits, saying it would reduce hexavalent chromium emissions by 224 pounds per year.

With the formal petition denial removing overlapping issues between the petition and the lawsuit, NASF and EPA submitted a joint April 26 filing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asking it to resume briefing on an NASF lawsuit filed Nov. 19 that challenges the air toxics rule. The industry lawsuit, along with related lawsuits filed by environmentalists, had been on hold pending EPA's response to the industry petition.

The rule was a "residual risk" rulemaking required by the Clean Air Act, under which the agency must review its NESHAPs eight years after their implementation to determine whether there is a need to tighten existing emissions limits to further reduce public health risks or to require adoption of more modern emissions control technologies. EPA's residual risk rule revised air toxics limits for chromium electroplating facilities first set in 1995 and 1999.

EPA, in the new rule, found new emissions control technology and other techniques available to reduce emissions of hexavalent chromium by 30 to 50 percent. The tightened rule, which also required the phase-out of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) fume suppressants, gave chromium electroplating facilities two years to comply.

NASF, in its administrative petition, offered a number of critiques of the revised rule and its stricter emission limits, from the types of data and methodologies EPA used in the rulemaking to the agency's alleged violation of statutes requiring the agency to convene a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) panel. The group also said that EPA was not legally required to revise the air toxics rule for chrome plating facilities.

The trade group, for example, said in its petition that EPA revised its cost analysis of the rule and then did not provide a public comment period. EPA, in its response, disagrees, saying many of changes, including the revised cost analysis, were made based on comments from NASF. EPA, in its response, says that complaints over the cost analysis are "not of central relevance" to the rule because with or without the changes, the agency found the updated air toxics rule was still cost-effective.

EPA's decision to phase out PFOS fume suppressants also prompted NASF's objections, with the trade group saying much of the agency's support for the requirement was added after the rule had been proposed. The group also said the data did not support the requirement to phase out PFOS fume suppressants. EPA, however, says in its response that it added the data to the record because of public comments seeking more supporting data.

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