NCDEQ to draft rules for Methyl Bromide Log Fumigation Operations

The NC Environmental Management Commission (EMC) held a Special Called Meeting on August 15th in part to hear an information item that will become an action item at the regular EMC Air Quality Committee (AQC) meeting on September 12th, 2018. Mike Abraczinskas, Director of the Division of Air Quality presented a strategy to regulate the use of methyl bromide in log fumigation operations.

China and India have increased their demand for yellow pine logs, but require fumigation prior to accepting US exports. NC companies have responded to demand and are seeking Title V permits to open new log fumigation operations. However, DAQ, in response to information obtained at public meetings, has put a hold on new permits and notified exiting permit holders of the agency's intent to modify their permits.

DAQ is drafting temporary and permanent rules to control emissions from log fumigation operations that use methyl bromide as a pesticide. Methyl bromide is classified as a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) and an ozone depleting substance subject to federal phaseout rules. Certain agricultural operations and import/export quarantine treatments including log fumigation are allowed to continue using methyl bromide under a critical use exemption. DAQ views log fumigation to be an industrial point source using methyl bromide in concentrated locations unlike most agriculture uses that qualify for exemption. Currently, there are no federal or state air quality regulations addressing methyl bromide emissions.

At the same time DAQ proceeds with temporary and permanent control technology based rules they are requesting the Science Advisory Board (SAB) to evaluate inhalation risks and recommend an Acceptable Ambient Level (AAL). An AAL would be the basis for regulating methyl bromide under the state's Toxic Air Pollutant Program and controlling ambient levels at the source property boundary.

Some commissioners expressed concern about continuing use of methyl bromide in North Carolina and asked about alternatives. In fact, Phosphine is one such alternative, but not acceptable to China. Other commissioners challenged DAQ about the potential to put companies out of business with expedited rules when the agency doesn't have the knowledge it needs to initiate rulemaking, suggesting that DAQ needs to take a slower approach and let the SAB evaluate risk before making rules.

When the EMC returns in September, they want to know if NC out front on this issue or in line with other states. They also want to hear views representing the Department of Commerce and the Forestry Industry to balance their understanding.

Temporary and permanent rules will be proposed to the EMC Air Quality Committee at their September 12th meeting. The proposed rules could go to the full EMC the next day (Thursday, September 13th) and move to public hearing on September 25th if approved. Temporary rules could be published in the State Register and made effective as early as December 14th, 2018. Permanent rules would be on a later schedule with EMC adoption as early as May 9, 2019.