Test Page Title

Regulatory Areas

Emergency generators vehicles asbestos refrigeration gas stations
This area covers air emissions from stationary (for example, generators and refrigerant systems) and mobile (trucks and vehicle fleets) sources associated with retail operations. Potential causes of air pollution in a retail setting include emergency generator operation, refrigerants, vehicles, building renovations involving asbestos, and gasoline storage, handling and dispensing. Other specialty retail sources of potential air pollution are from activities such as automotive repair. Odors and noise, which are regulated at state and local levels, are also in this category. This category does not include potential air emissions from products – which is covered in the CRC Product Compliance and Toxics page​.

Compliance Considerations

​​​Air quality is regulated at the federal, state and local levels. Few if any retail facilities will be large enough to require a federal air permit. Most retail facilities will be regulated at the state or even local levels. State air permits are often required for facilities with large boilers, emergency generators, during construction, or that have specific operations such as paint spray booths. The types of businesses likely to need a state or local air permit include auto body shops, dry cleaners, and gas stations.

To determine if your facility needs an air permit, you must check with state and local agencies. State air pollution agencies are listed in this Air Pollution State Resource Locator.

Want to know more about air regulations?

The federal Clean Ai​r Act (CAA) is designed to protect air quality and regulates emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Under the CAA, EPA sets air quality standards for six pollutants, which are called criteria pollutants: ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and lead. EPA identifies areas with air quality that does not meet standards for healthy air, which are called "nonattainment areas" (in other words, these areas, usually urban, do not attain acceptable air quality for one or more of the criteria pollutants). States then develop plans for how to meet the air quality standards, called State Implementation Plans or SIPs. This means that states can have unique requirements and procedures, and requirements may differ for facilities in nonattainment areas. The state programs must be at least as stringent as EPA's. EPA keeps a list of nonattainment areas by county.

EPA also regulates the emission of hazardous air pollutants (HAP). Examples of HAPs include benzene, which is found in gasoline; perchloroethylene, which is used in dry cleaning; and methylene chloride, which is used as a solvent and paint stripper.

As federal air quality permits are based on the amount of air pollutant emissions and HAPs, few if any retail operations will be considered a major source of air pollution. For more information, EPA has a Plain English Guide to the CAA​.

Refrigeration, Air Conditioning & Refrigerated Transportation

Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Refrigerated Transportation - these processes use refrigerants that may contain chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) or a common subclass, hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), which are ozone depleting substances (ODS). High in the atmosphere, these compounds can breakdown the ozone that protects us from the sun's UV rays. To reduce emissions of these substances, Title VI of the CAA has requirements that apply to retailers who have large refrigerators/freezers, air conditioning units, or refrigerated transportation. The requirements relate to technicians, refrigerant management, and leak detection.  Certified HVAC technicians are required for the repair and maintenance of refrigeration and air conditioning units. In addition to having a licensed technician perform repair operations, the recovery equipment itself must be registered with the EPA. If you own and operate refrigerant recovery equipment, you must submit an EPA registration form.

Refrigerant Leak Test A key element of the regulations relates to refrigerant leaks. Owners or operators of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment with refrigerant charges greater than 50 pounds (usually the refrigerant charge or capacity is on the equipment or in the manual) are (1) required to repair leaks within 30 days when those leaks result in the loss of more than a certain percentage of the equipment's refrigerant charge over a year and (2) must keep servicing records documenting the date and type of service, as well as the quantity of refrigerant added. The EPA has a compliance guide on leak repair.

Different refrigerant-containing equipment has different allowable refrigerant leak rates. If equipment leaks more than the allowable leak rate, it must be repaired or replaced. Consider developing a written refrigerant inventory and storage policy to ensure compliance with EPA and state regulations. This policy should address all requirements, including those relating to recordkeeping, leak detection, and cylinder management policies. The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute has developed a sample policy and has other compliance information on their PhaseOutFacts.org website.  

EPA is working on phasing out some common refrigerants with the greatest ozone depleting potential, particularly HCFC or R-22. EPA has information on HCFC Regulations and refrigerants.

In November 2016, EPA finalized revisions to the refrigerant management requirements. The primary reason for the revisions was to extend the requirements from just ODS refrigerants to substitutes for these refrigerants, as some of these substitute compounds are greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. This revision and the other changes being implemented will be phased-in for various actions within the refrigerant management process from January 1, 2017 to January 1, 2019.

Vehicle Air Conditioning System

Refrigerants are also used in vehicle air conditioning systems . Federal Clean Air Act regulations make it illegal to vent any refrigerant to the environment during repair, service, maintenance, recycling, or disposal of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment. Refrigerants must be recovered during all service, repair, maintenance, and disposal activities. Spent refrigerants that are not reclaimed or recycled are regulated wastes. EPA requires use of EPA-certified refrigerant recycling equipment when servicing motor vehicle air conditioners. Anyone who works on vehicle air conditioning systems must also be certified by an EPA-approved organization. Each facility must either have a certified person onsite or bring in a person certified to perform any service involving refrigerant, including refrigerant top-offs.

Ammonia Refrigeration

Anhydrous ammonia is a common refrigerant used in large systems such as cold storage facilities and food processing facilities. Releases of ammonia are potentially harmful to workers and the public. Ammonia refrigeration is regulated by EPA's emergency notification laws and OSHA. Anhydrous Ammonia is also subject to annual Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know (EPCRA) reporting, known as hazardous chemical inventory or Tier II reporting, if a facility uses or stores more than 500 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at any time during the year.  Facilities are also subject to emergency release notification requirements under EPCRA and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) (anhydrous ammonia releases greater than 100 pounds must be immediately reported to local and state emergency responders as well as the National Response Center at 800-424-8802 ). Facilities with over 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia must develop a Risk Management Plan under the CAA Section 112(r) Risk Management Plan Rule. These facilities have additional requirements under 40 CFR Part 68 ("Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions") that include establishing a program for hazard assessment, maintenance, training, and emergency response.

EPA has resources on ammonia refrigeration, including a chemical safety alert, and OSHA also has information on the management of ammonia refrigerants. States may have additional regulations.


Commercial or institutional boilers (for example, boilers at a distribution center or a large multi-store department store) may be considered an area source under the CAA and subject to EPA regulations under 40 CFR 63, subpart JJJJJJ. Only boilers under a specific size that burn fuels such as coal, oil, and biomass are regulated under this rule. Electric boilers, gas-fired boilers, hot water heaters, and temporary boilers are not covered. EPA has more information on how to determine if your boiler is covered and on the requirements, which include energy assessments and tune-ups. Boilers may also be regulated at the state level and may require a permit. As a good management practice, you should document your process of determining whether or not a permit is needed.

It is possible, although unlikely, for a commercial boiler to be considered a major source under the CAA (major source thresholds for HAPs are 10 tons per year or more for a single HAP or 25 tons per year or more for any combination of HAPs). Major sources have additional requirements.

Building Renovations 

There are a number of federal regulations that govern asbestos removal, especially in public spaces. Building owners and managers should be aware of proper asbestos management. In general, any asbestos abatement should be done by properly licensed firms and individuals, and the resulting asbestos waste must be handled as required by EPA or the state. More information on asbestos can be found on EPA's Asbestos page.

Emergency Generators

​ Emergency Generator​EPA regulates Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines (RICE)​ in emergency generators. Some states also require these generators to be registered or permitted. Factors that govern how EPA and the states regulate an emergency generator at a facility include 1) if the generator is new or existing; 2) if the generator is located at an area source (emits less than 10 tons annually of a single hazardous air pollutant or less than 25 tons of a combination of hazardous air pollutants) or at a major source (emits 10 tons or more per year of a listed hazardous air pollutant, or 25 tons or more​​ per year of a mixture of listed hazardous air pollutants); and 3) size of the engine (e.g., greater or less than 500 horsepower).

Regardless of the permitting status, some general requirements for proper use of emergency generators include:

  • Using diesel that is low or ultra-low sulfur;
  • Staying under maximum running times for the year (usually less than 100 hours per year);
  • Keeping records of performance tests and tune-ups on the equipment demonstrating the emissions of NOx, SOx, and particulate matter from the engines.

EPA Region I has a summary of the requirements for emergency generators. New generators less than 500 horsepower at an area source will typically have very few regulatory requirements. EPA has a tool to help generator owners and operators determine what requirements apply. 

Fueling Stations

Gas PumpEPA has a summary for Controlling Air Emissions from Gasoline Dispensing Facilities. The CAA requires gasoline dispensing facilities (such as at service stations, convenience stores, and rental and fleet service centers) to check for gasoline leaks and use good housekeeping procedures to prevent evaporation of gasoline. Facilities with monthly gasoline throughputs of 10,000 gallons or more must have submerged fill pipes when loading fuel storage tanks and vapor balancing between the storage tank and the tank truck.  For more information, visit the CRC Gasoline and Fuel Dealers page.

There are often additional state and local air regulations for gas stations, especially for facilities in a nonattainment area.  ​


Equipment and Vehicle Fleets – Most states have required emissions tests/inspections for vehicles. States and local jurisdictions may also have emission requirements for non-road equipment such has forklifts and utility vehicles. States, especially in nonattainment areas, may have additional requirements on fleets such as clean fuel vehicle phase-in.

Idling – A number of jurisdictions have regulations to reduce idling for trucks or other vehicles during deliveries. Resources include: American Transportation Research Institute compendium of idling regulations, Transportation Environmental Resource Center idling page, and Clean Cities  idle-reduction toolbox for fleets with a database of idle-reduction regulations

Noise and Odors

Noise Control – State and local governments have the responsibility of responding to most noise pollution matters. EPA has some resources about Noise Pollution​.

Odor Control – The CAA does not specifically regulate odor. Odors are typically addressed through state or local nuisance regulations.​


EPA Air Pollution Training Institute (APTI): On-Demand Video Training – Webinars on air pollution topics, including boilers, vehicles, and general pollution reduction

Sustainability and Reducing Compliance Risk

Improving the energy efficiency of your facility and vehicles is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to reduce air pollution,  combat climate change, improve air quality, and reduce costs. RILA has developed an energy management program specifically for retailers.

Boilers and Generators – Boilers and generators should be maintained and tuned-up on a regular basis to ensure the units are operating efficiently and to reduce air pollution. Switching from oil to natural gas also reduces air pollution.

There are greener alternatives to some CFCs and HCFCs used in refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioning units. EPA maintains a list of Refrigerant Alternatives ​under their Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program, including alternatives for Retail Food Refrigeration. These substitutes have a lower ozone depletion potential, global warming potential, toxicity, flammability, and exposure potential. Additionally, retailers can partner with the EPA through the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) scheme to dispose of old refrigerated appliances using the best environmental practices available.

Consider participating in EPA's SmartWay program, which is designed to reduce emissions from the freight transportation sector.

Look here for retail-specific information on environmental regulations by regulatory area. If you don’t know which areas apply, use the store department search function.

Last Update: 4/6/2015 12:00:00 AM