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EPA targets flexible packaging industry on air emissions

In its bid to comply with mandates set forth in the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tooling up to focus on the converting industry.

The agency's goal: to develop an emissions standard for paper, film and foil coating, referred to by EPA as a Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standard. This MACT standard is aimed at 189 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) used in paper, film and foil coating. The good news is that EPA is working with industry to develop the MACT standard through its MACT Partnership Program. The idea is that representatives from state and local environmental agencies, industry and environmental groups form a team to hammer out what is called a presumptive MACT standard, akin to a working draft. (In contrast, the MACT standard for printing and publishing relied more heavily on EPA's own research.) The team would analyze the presumptive MACT standard to determine areas needing additional work or research. EPA has a choice of using the presumptive for the basis for proposing a formal MACT rule to achieve the sought-after emissions reductions, or it may choose to modify existing Control Techniques Guidelines (CTG) for the flexography and rotogravure processes. CTG is not a federal rule; rather, it's a guideline that states use for establishing their own rules. Although it's a good sign that EPA is working with industry, the Flexible Packaging Assn.'s Mark Wygonik, director of technology & regulatory affairs, sounds a note of caution with regard to the timing. "The biggest concern is that the presumptive MACT is supposed to be issued some time in July. That's a very short window to gather meaningful information." Separately, converters may have to wait a little longer to determine the impact of EPA's final MACT emissions standard for printing. EPA indicated it might be unable to meet the March 15 court-ordered deadline for publishing the final regulations because the two federal shutdowns delayed the mandatory approval process by internal EPA work groups. A deadline extension would require court approval, and at press time it was unclear if an environmental group might initiate a lawsuit to block any delay. FPA had urged EPA to amend the proposed MACT standard because it imposed costly new requirements on the package printing industry that FPA argued could be unproductive.

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