Wednesday, 07 October 2009 16:26

New Federal Environmental Regulations for Autobody Shops

Deadlines are Looming

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently adopted rules which directly affect autobody shops across the nation. These new rules, designated as National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), Subpart HHHHHH (6H), are in addition to any current state or local permits, exemptions or authorizations you may have. If you don’t have any existing state or local permits, that’s another issue altogether and these new rules will likely draw attention to that situation as increased scrutiny is directed toward your industry due to 6H implementation. It should be noted that 6H is part of a larger body of regulations applicable to minor or “area sources” as defined by the EPA. Should your shop be a major source, which is possible but unlikely, then 6H does not apply.

Additionally, if you can demonstrate that you spray apply only coatings that do not meet the definition of a target Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) containing coating, as defined below, you may petition the EPA Administrator for an exemption from this subpart, but I would not hold my breath.  So, presumably a shop using only water based coatings could still have applicability under these rules if they did not request and receive an exemption from the EPA.  


Otherwise, this rule applies to all area (minor) source motor vehicle and mobile equipment surface coating operations (Autobody Shops) that use a target HAP containing coating. Target HAPs are compounds of chromium (Cr), lead (Pb), manganese (Mn), nickel (Ni), or cadmium (Cd).  If any coating, as applied, has more than 1.0 percent by mass of a compound that has one or more of these five elements, then it is a target HAP containing coating OR if any coating, as applied, has less than 0.10 percent by mass of a compound that has one or more of the above elements, which is also on the list of OSHA defined carcinogens, then it is a target HAP containing coating. Presently compounds of nickel, cadmium, and chromium are considered carcinogenic.

The above information can be found in your Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS’s) or presumably by asking your vendor for a review of your coatings products.

A Summary of the Rule

Notifications & Compliance Dates:

New sources must notify the EPA and the state that they are subject to this rule within 180 days after operations began or by July 7, 2008, whichever is later.  Existing sources must file notifications no later than January 11, 2010. This deadline is around the corner and a critical compliance element of this rule. I would therefore suggest filing the notification even if you are petitioning the EPA for an exemption, in an effort to avoid any potential compliance gaps (in case of a delay, non-response or denial from the EPA).

For new sources, notification and certification of compliance are on one form.  For existing sources, certification of compliance can be submitted separately as long as it is submitted by March 11, 2011.

You are a new source if you 1) began operation or construction of your shop after September 17, 2007, and/or 2) began the use of new coating equipment (new source of HAP emissions) after September 17, 2007. An existing source is therefore one that predated September 17, 2007. Actual compliance is required immediately for new sources, and by January 10, 2011, for existing sources.

Note: If you purchase and install spray booths, enclosed spray gun cleaners, or purchase new spray guns to comply with this rule at an existing source (facility that was coating prior to September 17, 2007), these actions would not make your existing source a new source.

Based on the above dates, if you are a new source and have not previously addressed these requirements, you are out of compliance and potentially subject to severe penalties and sanctions. My best advice however would be “better late than never” and although not a guarantee, it is a safe bet that self reporting and self initiated compliance efforts will be better received than a state or federal initiated complaint investigation filed by a disgruntled employee or competitor.

Operational Practices:

* You must apply coatings with a high volume, low pressure (HVLP) spray gun, electrostatic application, airless spray gun, or air-assisted airless spray gun.  You may use an equivalent technology that is demonstrated by the spray gun manufacturer to achieve transfer efficiency comparable to one of the spray gun technologies listed above, and for which written approval has been obtained from the EPA.
* All spray-applied coatings must be applied in a preparation station or spray booth.  Prep stations and spray booths must be fully enclosed with a full roof and four complete walls or complete side curtains. They must be ventilated at negative pressure so that air is drawn into any openings in the booth walls or prep station curtains.
* The exhaust from the prep station or spray booth must be fitted with filters demonstrated to achieve at least 98 percent filter efficiency of paint overspray.
* Spray guns are to be cleaned in an enclosed spray gun cleaner or by cleaning the disassembled gun parts by hand.  No spray gun cleaning is to be performed by spraying solvent through the gun, creating an atomized mist.

It has been noted in the rule language that many, if not most, modern shops will already meet these requirements, save perhaps having to utilize higher efficiency filtration. Accordingly, the rule allows the extra time for older “existing’ shops to budget and make the necessary infrastructure and equipment changes  in an effort to meet these rules. Whether you like it or not and depending upon the level of enforcement, at the least the “playing field” has been leveled from the stand point of coatings application.

Painter Certification & Training:

* All painters must receive certification training in techniques to minimize paint overspray and rule comprehension.
* All spray painters at new sources must complete this training no later than 180 days after hiring, or by July 7, 2008, whichever is later. All spray painters at existing sources must complete training no later than 180 days after hiring, or by January 9, 2011, whichever is later.
* Training must be repeated every 5 years.

This training requires both classroom and hands on training and is available from an increasing number of sources and is not limited to particular industry associations or providers. It is also noteworthy that it is a content based curriculum, not time based, and can be found in three day, two day and other formats, including online.  


Records must be kept for five years. They must be kept on site for at least two years and must include the following:

* Certification that each painter has completed training, including the date of the initial training and dates of any refresher training;
* Documentation of the spray booth filter-efficiency, such as data from the manufacturer;
* Records of notifications and reports sent to EPA and the state.
* Records of any deviation from the requirements of this rule, including the date and time, description, and corrective action taken regarding the deviation;
* Records verifying the compliance used in the preparation of the initial notification, certification of compliance, and annual notification of changes report; and
* Documentation from the manufacturer for any spray gun that does not meet the definition of an HVLP spray gun, electrostatic spray gun, airless spray gun, or air-assisted airless spray gun that demonstrates the gun meets transfer efficiency equal to one of the other allowed types of spray guns.

Annual Reporting:

You will be required to submit an “Annual Notification of Changes Report” in each calendar year, after initial applicability, on or before March 1, if any operational, compliance or ownership changes may occur.

Unfortunately, the compliance requirements for all Autobody shops just got more complicated and will require additional expenditures of time, effort and possibly substantial capital for some older shops. Some will revel in the aforementioned leveling of the “playing field”, others will be forced out of business; in any case significant changes are in the wind.   

Jack Benton is the CEO and founder of Benton & Associates located at 4630 50th St., Suite 614, Lubbock, Texas, 79414. Benton & Associates is an environmental engineering and safety consulting firm providing air, water and waste permitting, general regulatory compliance support and intervention for clients locally and coast to coast. Jack is a former Texas state environmental regulator, giving him an insider's perspective into these issues. He and his staff have several decades of experience and specialization in regulatory issues affecting the composites, coatings and other industrial, construction and manufacturing facilities. You can contact Jack or his staff by telephone at 806-783-9944, by fax at 806-783-9966, by email at jack@bentonconsultants.com or by visiting www.bentonconsultants.com.