Issue Date: June 18, 2007
Appeals court vacates EPA incinerator rule
A panel of federal judges has reaffirmed that EPA violated the Clean Air Act by relaxing limits on emissions of smog-forming compounds from large power plants, factories, and other industrial sources. As a result, chemical plants, refineries, and other facilities that burn their waste in on-site incinerators must comply with the law's most stringent rules governing hazardous air pollutants. The June 8 decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld a December 2006 ruling by the same court that struck down an attempt by EPA to exempt thousands of waste incinerators from the emissions standard. The agency had argued that it could set less stringent controls for these incinerators by treating them as though they were "boilers" or "process heaters" that burn only fossil fuels. The court rejected that argument, stating that facilities that burn waste are incinerators and must meet the Clean Air Act's strictest emissions standard. The panel denied petitions by EPA and industry groups for a rehearing, and sent the incinerator rule back for "wholesale revision."
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