States will be able to get revisions to their Clean Air Act implementation plans through the federal maze in half the previous time or less, according to the billing for a new two-part rule change from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Small changes in the way states administer the act have often taken a year or more to win EPA approval, even if nobody objected to them. Fully one-third of the 500 revisions processed yearly are noncontroversial, and the delay has caused a lot of state-federal friction. EPA administrator Anne Gorsuch had said that speeding up the process was one of her early priorities.
Now, according to a notice published Friday in the Federal Register, EPA will bypass the current system completely when changes in the state plans are noncontroversial.
The state's plans will be published as a final rule-making that will go into effect in 60 days if nobody objects within 30 days. If there is an objection, "we'll rescind the final action and open it up for a public comment period, at least 30 days more and longer if it's a significant controversy," said John Calcagni, EPA's air quality plans analysis chief.
The second part of the new rule would get EPA involved in the proposal-writing process at the beginning rather than at the end. The states now have to have comments, rewriting, more comments and often legislative approval before submitting a revision, and then the feds do the same thing twice again, once proposing the change and again making it final.
The new "parallel processing" approach, to be used only on revisions sure to be controversial, would start the federal comment period whenever the state had an initial draft. That way the federal agency could finish only a month or so after the state's proposal is formally submitted to EPA.
If the state wound up revising its initial version in a "significant" way, then EPA could decide to review it again. Asked what "significant" meant, Calcagni replied, "That's why we have lawyers, I'm afraid."