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 Proposal – Remote Sensing of Pollutants

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Team Members

Progress Report (PDF) (5 pp, 20 KB) September 2006

Milestones, Actions, and Due Dates

This team’s action plan will define actions to promote the use of remote sensing for environmental protection. Actionable items that will be added to EPA policy include:

  • Demonstration of the use of remote sensing through projects
  • Identification of needs
  • Conferences to share knowledge and ideas
  • A remote sensing forum Web site

The Geospatial Information Officer in EPA’s Office of Environmental Information will work with this team to:

  • Provide input on remote sensing policy issues within EPA
  • Help to determine support and data collection needs for commercial use of remote sensing
  • Identify and articulate agency requirements for remote sensing issues
  • Identify the remote sensing contracting services that would be helpful to the EPA regions
  • Identify the direction of remote sensing research

This team will participate in the following conferences:

  • Regional Science Remote Sensing Work Shop, Dallas, Texas, March 1–2, 2005
  • Urban Remote Sensing Conference, Phoenix, Arizona, March 15, 2005
  • Federal Planning Conference, San Diego, California, March 16–18, 2005
  • Department of Defense Arch/Planning Conference, Norfolk, Virginia, April
  • Hands-On Remote Sensing Workshop for States, Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina
  • EPA Science Forum, Washington, DC, May 16–18, 2005

This team will participate in the following projects:

  • Region 6 PlumeEX is a project in South Texas that uses a fixed-wing airborne hyperspectral sensor from the University of Hawaii to combine flyover and comprehensive data from several sites with ground truth at a facility in Freeport.
  • Region 9 and NASA Centers at Dryden and Ames have been cooperating on a project to demonstrate the applicability of remote sensing technologies for environmental issues. The project includes:

    • Evaluating the capability of detecting vegetation types and habitats, using an airborne thematic mapper simulator
    • Analyzing spectral separability of vegetation
    • Evaluating the feasibility of using image characterization approaches

  • Region 6 and RTP will partner with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) to detect emissions from pipelines, railcars, barges, and floating roof storage tanks, using a hand-held infrared camera. LDEQ is interested in identifying sources of emissions that are not currently listed in emission inventories or permits.

The Thomson Report was created to discuss the costs and benefits of federal regulations but in recent years has been expanded to include nominations from the public for reform and revision of EPA policies, guidance, and paperwork requirements. EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) is in the process of preparing responses to these comments, which will be reviewed by EPA’s acting administrator. A number of EPA offices are involved in assisting or commenting on the response to the Thomson Report. The Remote Sensing Action Team will provide input on the remote sensing items in the report:

Office Rule/Guidance Commenter Comment Summary
OAR Permit Use of New Technology to Monitor Leaks of Volatile Air Pollutants National Association of Manufacturers (9); U.S. Chamber of Commerce (19) Current rules for monitoring leaks and fugitive emissions, specified in Method 21, require an operator to visit and screen each regulated component to determine whether it is leaking. This process is labor intensive, expensive, and not particularly accurate. Method 21 should be replaced with a more technologically advanced approach to emissions monitoring, such as using optical imaging devices.
OAR Rulemaking to Limit Mercury Emissions From Electric Utilities American Public Power Association (42) EPA is currently developing a rule to limit mercury emissions from electric utilities. Smaller plants using current continuous monitoring methods will incur considerable capital and operating and maintenance costs. EPA should allow smaller utility systems to work with states to adopt the most practical and reliable monitoring methods at the lowest cost.
OAR Replace Visual Determinations With Property Line Measures When Regulating Sources of Particles National Stone, Sand, and Gravel Association (20) The aggregates industry is required to use a visual emissions test to determine opacity of its emissions (Method 9). This method should not be used because it is subjective and often inaccurate. Furthermore, it is based on a measure of opacity, even though opacity exhibits a poor relationship to particulate matter concentrations, which are the subject of National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Instead of an opacity test, compliance should be based on ambient air concentration measurements taken at the property line.
OAR Leak Detection and Repair Regulatory Programs National Association of Manufacturers (9) The same manufacturing facility often faces multiple leak detection and repair programs under different EPA rules. The paperwork associated with these programs is burdensome. EPA should amend existing rules so that only one leak detection and repair program is required for any given plant.


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