ACI-NA Continues to Work with EPA to Shape Deicing Rule

ACI-NA Continues to Work with EPA to Shape Deicing Rule

Over the past several weeks the ACI-NA Environmental Affairs Committee has actively engaged the Obama Administration on an issue of great interest to our members – the Environmental Protection Agency’s deicing Effluent Limitation Guidelines Draft Final Rule.

ACI-NA has worked with its members and broader industry to develop substantial comments to the original proposed rule, which outlined our serious concerns with the proposed guidelines. Despite industry’s best efforts to cooperate with the EPA in the development phase of a deicing guidelines, the proposed rule that EPA issued in late 2009 reflected not only a lack of understanding of the industry as a whole, but also the fundamental differences between airports, and thus the proposed rule was unworkable. In February 2010, ACI-NA provided extensive comments on how the rule should be modified.

Since that time ACI-NA has repeatedly communicated our concerns to the administration and offered to work with EPA to develop successful, implementable deicing guidelines. In June, the EPA sent their final draft to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. Although we were not given the chance to offer further input to EPA, ACI-NA remained engaged and was able to secure meetings recently with all relevant agencies.

Within the past several weeks, ACI-NA staff and members met with the EPA Office of Water Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner and her staff (including staff from the General Counsel’s office and the Office of Policy), the FAA Office of Airports, and with the OMB representative responsible for reviewing the final draft.

The EPA has made some significant changes to the rule. The most significant change is the elimination of deicing pads (with the associated 60 percent collection standard of available aircraft deicing fluid) as the designated ‘best available technology economically achievable’ in favor of a “plug and pump” plus glycol recovery vehicles system with an assumed 40 percent collection standard.

In very simple terms, a “plug and pump” plus use of recovery vehicles is a way of capturing deicing fluid in stormwater by inserting a blocking mechanism into existing airport stormwater drains, and then pumping the contaminated water out. The contaminated stormwater would then need to be stored and treated prior to release. This type of system cannot be assumed to be available at all airports, nor can it be assumed that it could achieve a 40 percent collection standard. At best it would present enormous operational and safety challenges for those airport that could implement “plug and pump” and the associated storage and treatment systems.

During the meetings with all three agencies, ACI-NA staff and members were able to communicate the serious problems and uncertainty that this type of system would create for the industry, the operational and safety implications for airports, as well as our concerns that the EPA did not take into account the significant pollution prevention activities of our members and the airlines in reducing the amount of deicing fluids currently used with better technology and application procedures.

The issues we raised in these meetings deserve serious consideration by EPA prior to a final rule being published. The OMB will continue to review the rule for at least another few weeks before making a determination as to whether the final draft can go forward or if it needs further revision. ACI-NA will continue to communicate with the FAA and the EPA in the hopes of finding a way to collaborate in an iterative way to find solutions to ensure a successful and implementable final rule.

Contact ACI-NA’s Katherine Prestonfor more information.