EPA Finalizes Revisions to General Conformity

On April 5, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register the final revisions to the General Conformity regulations. The regulations serve to implement Clean Air Act provisions that prohibit federal actions that would cause or contribute to a violation of the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) by requiring such actions to conform to state, tribal, or federal implementation plans for the NAAQS. The final rule is effective on July 6, 2010.

EPA originally published draft revisions for public comment in January 2008. ACI-NA submitted comments on the proposal.

A fact sheet describing the final revisions is available on EPA’s website. As detailed in the fact sheet, the final rule:

  1. establishes requirements that will allow federal facilities expecting future expansion or modifications to negotiate a facility-wide emission budget with the applicable state air quality agencies. Actions taken that do not exceed these budgets conform to the SIP and do not need a conformity determination.
  2. incorporates an early emission reduction credit program for all agencies that follow the Airport Early Emission Reduction guidance developed jointly by EPA and the Federal Aviation Administration. This program encourages emission reduction actions on federal installations by providing emission reduction credits that can be used to demonstrate conformity for subsequent actions on the facility.
  3. allows emissions of one precursor pollutant to be offset by the reduction of emissions of another precursor pollutant.
  4. allows alternative schedules for mitigating emission increases where state air quality agencies can accommodate temporary emission increases in exchange for long-term or permanent emission reductions.
  5. removes requirements for federal agencies to conduct conformity determinations for "regionally significant" actions. Such actions have emissions greater than 10 percent of the emissions inventory for a nonattainment area. These analyses have been conducted for 16 years and have never shown an action to interfere with attainment or maintenance of a NAAQS.
  6. lists categories of actions that federal agencies can presume to conform. The final rule also allows states to establish "presumed to conform" lists for actions in their state.

More information about the General Conformity Rule is available on EPA’s website