Volume 85 Issue 49 | p. 13 | News of The Week
Issue Date: December 3, 2007

EPA Rebuked

Congress asks for more analysis of proposal for burning hazardous waste as fuel
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Sustainability

House lawmakers are asking EPA to take a closer look at its hazardous waste deregulation proposal, which the chemical industry sought.

The plan, released in June, would allow companies to burn hazardous waste as fuel in industrial boilers that provide heat or power. This substitution only would be allowed if such burning would generate air pollution that is comparable to emissions produced by combustion of fuel oil in the boiler. Much of the material the proposal would affect now goes to hazardous waste incinerators, which are more stringently regulated than industrial boilers.

In a letter sent last week, 25 members of the House of Representatives asked EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson to assess the proposal's environmental impact at each of 86 industrial facilities expected to benefit from the regulatory rollback.

They also faulted EPA's proposal for not including the names and locations of those facilities and how much waste they are expected to burn if the rule becomes final.

"The communities that would see increases in toxic pollutants were not notified until after the EPA comment period ended," says Rep. Mark S. Kirk (R-Ill.), who signed the letter. This timing, says Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), another signatory, means "EPA knowingly denied communities the chance to comment."

EPA data, obtained by the environmental group Earthjustice under the Freedom of Information Act, show that DuPont could benefit the most from the proposed deregulation. Each year, DuPont could burn in industrial boilers an estimated 7,191 tons of material now classified as hazardous waste. Two-thirds of this tonnage would come from DuPont's La Porte, Texas, facility.

DuPont says the Texas facility's waste is composed of organic compounds and now goes to a company-owned incinerator with a permit to burn hazardous waste. "If the proposed rule becomes official, we would certainly be interested in analyzing whether the waste stream would qualify," DuPont spokesman Nathan Pepper, tells C&EN.

Other companies and the amount of waste now classified as hazardous that EPA estimates they could divert into boilers each year include: Sunoco, 5,215 tons at two facilities; Eastman Chemical, 3,815 tons at three facilities; and PPG Industries, 3,542 tons at four facilities.

EPA estimates the proposal could affect as much as 107,000 tons of material now classified as hazardous waste. The agency calculates the plan would save industry $23 million a year in fuel and hazardous waste management costs.

Two industry groups, the American Chemistry Council and the National Association of Manufacturers, sought the regulatory change. In 2005 the Bush Administration instructed EPA to act on this request as part of an initiative to relax regulation of the manufacturing sector (C&EN, March 14, 2005, page 29).

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