A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has denied a request by the Environmental Protection Agency to extend by more than a year a court-ordered deadline for issuing controversial new emissions standards for industrial boilers and incinerators.
Instead, U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman ordered EPA to finalize the regulations by Feb. 21, 2011, ruling that the agency has had more than enough time to complete the rule-making under the Clean Air Act. The case dates back to 2001, when the environmental group Sierra Club sued EPA for missing statutory deadlines for developing regulations for a variety of hazardous air pollutants.
After being granted numerous extensions, EPA faced a deadline of Jan. 16, 2011, to finalize a set of standards that would require chemical plants and other large industrial facilities to install new pollution controls to limit emissions of mercury, soot, and other toxic air pollutants from their boilers and incinerators.
In December, EPA asked the court to extend the deadline until April 2012, saying it needed more time to review and consider the more than 4,800 comments and additional data it received during the public comment period for the rules (C&EN, Dec. 13, 2010, page 24).
Industry groups have charged that it would be so costly to achieve compliance with the proposed standards that many facilities would be forced to shut down and more than 300,000 jobs would be put at risk.
EPA says in a statement that it will issue standards that are "significantly different" than the ones it originally proposed by the February deadline. The rules could also be fine-tuned through an administrative process it plans to initiate, the agency notes.
But Calvin M. Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, which represents more than 100 chemical companies, says he is worried that EPA "will not have adequate opportunity to improve the rules to ensure they are achievable, effective, and will not stifle economic growth or put more Americans out of work."
Michael Brune, the Sierra Club's executive director, says toxic air pollution from industrial plants threatens the health of 36 million Americans. "Industry has done everything it can to delay these clean up measures. These polluters must be held accountable," he remarks.