Wednesday, February 23, 2011

EPA Issues Revised, Less Costly, Final "Boiler MACT" Rules

Feb 23: In response to Federal court orders in Sierra Club v. EPA requiring the issuance of final standards [See WIMS 1/21/11], U.S. EPA issued final Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators -- the so-called "Boiler MACT" rules -- that EPA says will achieve significant public health protections through reductions in toxic air emissions, including mercury and soot, but cut the cost of implementation by about 50 percent from an earlier proposal issued last year. EPA indicates that mercury, soot, lead and other harmful pollutants released by boilers and incinerators can lead to developmental disabilities in children, as well as cancer, heart disease, aggravated asthma and premature death in Americans. These standards will avoid between 2,600-6,600 premature deaths, prevent 4,100 heart attacks and avert 42,000 asthma attacks per year in 2014.
    Industry and Congressional members have said the originally proposed rules would cost billions and are "unachievable" for manufacturers, universities, and municipalities that use boilers to power their facilities; and put thousands of jobs at risk and could force many manufacturing plants to close their doors. A group of Senators told EPA last week that "Congress stands ready to assist the agency to produce a rule that lowers emissions without putting jobs and manufacturing plants across the country at risk." [See WIMS 2/22/11]. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) indicated that it has estimated that the so-called, "Boiler MACT" rules "would jeopardize some 60,000 jobs and impose capital costs on the order of $3.8 billion in the chemical industry alone."

    In response to a September 2009 court order, EPA issued the proposed rules in April 2010, prompting significant public input. The proposed rules followed a period that began in 2007, when a Federal court vacated a set of industry specific standards proposed during the Bush Administration. Based on the public input received following the April 2010 proposal, EPA made extensive revisions, and in December 2010 requested additional time for review to ensure the public's input was fully addressed. EPA was seeking in its motion to the court an extension to finalize the rules by April 13, 2012.
Instead, the court granted EPA 30 days, resulting in today's announcement.

    Based on input from key stakeholders including the public, industry and the public health communities, EPA said its latest announcement represents "a dramatic cut in the cost of implementation, while maintaining maximum public health benefits." As a result, EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to cut these pollutants, the public will see between $10 to $24 in health benefits, including fewer premature deaths.

    The Agency received more than 4,800 comments from businesses and communities across the country in response to the proposed rules. Public input included a significant amount of information that industry had not provided prior to the proposal. Based on this feedback, and in keeping with President Obama's executive order on regulatory review [See WIMS 1/18/11], EPA revised the draft standards based on the requested input to provide additional flexibility and cost effective techniques -- achieving significant pollution reduction and important health benefits, while lowering the cost of pollution control installation and maintenance by about 50 percent, or $1.8 billion.

    Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation said, "The Clean Air Act standards we are issuing today are based on the best available science and have benefitted from significant public input. As a result, they put in place important public health safeguards to cut harmful toxic air emissions that affect children's development, aggravate asthma and cause heart attacks at costs substantially lower than we had estimated under our original proposal."

    Because the final standards significantly differ from the previous proposals, EPA believes further public review is required. Therefore, EPA will reconsider the final standards under a Clean Air Act process that allows the Agency to seek additional public review and comment to ensure full transparency. EPA's reconsideration will cover the emissions standards for large and small boilers and for solid waste incinerators. EPA will release additional details on the reconsideration process in the near future to ensure the public, industry and stakeholders have an opportunity to participate.

    EPA says about 200,000 boilers are located at small and large sources of air toxic emissions across the country. The final standards require many types of boilers to follow practical, cost-effective work practice standards to reduce emissions. To ensure smooth implementation, EPA is working with the departments of Energy (DOE) and Agriculture (USDA) to provide the diverse set of facilities impacted by the standards with technical assistance that will help boilers burn cleaner and more efficiently. DOE will work with large coal and oil-burning sources to help them identify clean energy strategies that will reduce harmful emissions and make boilers run more efficiently and cost-effectively. In addition, USDA will reach out to small sources to help owners and operators understand the standards and their cost and energy saving features.

    The types of boilers and incinerators covered by these updated standards include:
  • Boilers at large sources of air toxics emissions: There are about 13,800 boilers located at large sources of air pollutants, including refineries, chemical plants, and other industrial facilities. These standards will reduce emissions of harmful pollutants including mercury, organic air toxics and dioxins at some of the largest pollution sources. EPA estimates that the costs of implementation have been reduced by $1.5 billion from the proposed standard. Health benefits to children and the public associated with reduced exposure to fine particles and ozone from these large source boilers are estimated to be $22 billion to $54 billion in 2014.
  • Boilers located at small sources of air toxics emissions: There are about 187,000 boilers located at small sources of air pollutants, including universities, hospitals, hotels and commercial buildings that may be covered by these standards. Due to the small amount of emissions these sources are responsible for, EPA has limited the impact of the final rule making on small entities. The original standards for these have been dramatically refined and updated to ensure maximum flexibility for these sources, including for some sources, revising the requirement from maximum achievable control technology to generally available control technology. The cost reduction from the proposed standard to the final is estimated to be $209 million.
  • Solid waste incinerators: There are 88 solid waste incinerators that burn waste at a commercial or an industrial facility, including cement manufacturing facilities. These standards, which facilities will need to meet by 2016 at the latest, will reduce emissions of harmful pollutants including mercury, lead, cadmium, nitrogen dioxide and particle pollution. The cost reduction from the proposed standard to the final is estimated to be $12 million.
    In separate but related actions, EPA announced it is finalizing emission standards for sewage sludge incinerators. While there are more than 200 sewage sludge incinerators across the country, EPA expects that over 150 are already in compliance. These standards will reduce emissions of harmful pollutants including mercury, lead, cadmium, and hydrogen chloride from the remaining 50 that may need to leverage existing technologies to meet the new standards.

    EPA said it has also identified which non-hazardous secondary materials are considered solid waste when burned in combustion units. This distinction determines which Clean Air Act standard is applied when the material is burned. The non-hazardous secondary materials that can be burned as non-waste fuel include scrap tires managed under established tire collection programs. This step simplifies the rules and provides additional clarity and direction for facilities. To determine that materials are non-hazardous secondary materials when burned under the new rule, materials must not have been discarded and must be legitimately used as a fuel. EPA said it "recognizes that secondary materials are widely used today as raw materials, as products, and as fuels in industrial processes. [and] believes that the final rule helps set protective emissions standards under the Clean Air Act." The emissions standards for sewage sludge incinerators and the definition of solid waste are not part of today's reconsideration.
    The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse reacted quickly to the EPA announcement and said, "The new Boiler MACT rule will have an immediate, negative impact on manufacturers' bottom lines at a time when they are trying to rebound economically and create jobs. This is a harsh, inflexible rule that will cost jobs, hurt global competiveness and may discourage projects that could otherwise lead to environmental improvements. This is the latest example of the EPA's aggressive, overreaching agenda. We urge the EPA to undertake a common-sense approach that encourages economic growth, job creation and thoughtful regulatory policy."
    The public interest law firm that represented Sierra Club in the lawsuit, Earthjustice, issued a release saying, "This commonsense air toxics safeguard, often called the "Boiler MACT (Maximum Available Control Technology)," will save thousands of lives, and prevent thousands of cases of asthma attacks, heart attacks and hospital visits." Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club said, "Corporate polluters are literally making us sick, and these long overdue protections from EPA will save lives and improve the health of millions of Americans. Though the announcement today is modest by comparison to the proposals put forth by the EPA last June, we urge Administrator Lisa Jackson to forge ahead to protect our children and families' health." James Pew, staff attorney at Earthjustice said, "If the corporate lobbyists succeed in killing these health protections, Americans will pay the price with the lives and health of their family members. Controlling the toxic pollution from industrial boilers will save lives, prevent billions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs, and put thousands of Americans to work."
    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access links to the final rules, fact sheets, and regulatory impact analyses for each of EPA's regulatory actions (click here). Access more information from EPA's Emissions Standards for Boilers and Process Heaters and Commercial / Industrial Solid Waste Incinerators website (click here). Access a release from NAM (click here). Access a release from Earthjustice including the Sierra Club comments (click here).
- SCOTUS Denies Hearing Endangered Species Act Cases
- EPA Won't Suspend Pesticide Linked To Bee Collapse
- Six Chemical Substances To Be Banned Under EU REACH Regulations
- Three Facilities Get Combined Heat & Power Awards
- Transportation Policy To Save Oil & Reducing GHG Emissions

- Northeast-Midwest Institute Transportation Policy Project
- OIG Finds Problems With EPA Position Management Program