EPA Revises Pollution Standards For Industrial Boilers | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: December 3, 2011

EPA Revises Pollution Standards For Industrial Boilers

Toxic Emissions: Narrowed rule targets the largest boilers that emit the most pollution
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Sustainability
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: industrial boilers, incinerators, mercury, soot

The Environmental Protection Agencyis proposing changes to Clean Air Act standards for industrial boilers and certain incinerators that would slash emissions of mercury, soot, and other toxic air pollutants, but reduce compliance costs for industry.

The proposal released today would revise a set of regulations for boilers and solid waste incinerators EPA finalized in February under a court-ordered deadline. EPA agreed to revisit those standards in response to criticism by manufacturers and many members of Congress that the agency’s initial plan would have imposed a massive burden on the economy.

“With this action, EPA is applying the right standards to the right boilers,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “Gathering the latest and best real-world information is leading to practical, affordable air pollution safeguards that will provide the vital and overdue health protection that Americans deserve.”

EPA said it plans to issue a revised final rule in the spring of 2012.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), a trade association representing the nation’s largest chemical manufacturers, welcomed the revised standards. “We appreciate EPA’s thoughtful consideration of these rules and willingness to make sensible changes,” said ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley. “While we need to review the rules for technical details, it appears that improvements have been made.”

These include, Dooley said, more flexible compliance options for meeting emission limits, allowing the use of work practice standards for certain pollutants, and providing more flexibility for units burning clean gases.

EPA said the maximum achievable control technology standards outlined in its February ruling would now apply to less than 1% of the country’s boilers and offer major public health benefits, including the prevention of 8,100 premature deaths and 52,000 asthma attacks every year beginning in 2015. In addition, the agency said, the revised final rule will cost businesses about $3 billion, nearly 50% less than its estimate for the standards as originally proposed in 2010.

Public health groups also praised the new regulations. “It is past time to move forward with these lifesaving standards,” the American Lung Association said in a statement. “Research has shown that toxic air pollution from industrial boilers harm human health, targeting the circulatory, respiratory, nervous, endocrine, and other essential life systems.”

Boilers burn a variety of fuels, including coal, natural gas, and oil, to generate heat for industrial and manufacturing processes. They are the second-largest source of toxic mercury emissions, after coal-fired power plants.

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W. Randall Rawson (December 6, 2011 10:00 AM)
There appears to be nothing in EPA’s 12.02.11 NESHAP Industrial, Commercial, Institutional (ICI) Boiler MACT proposals that cannot be handled in a timely and cost-effective way by the types of existing, state-of-the-art, technologically-advanced and fuel-flexible products and equipment supplied by the U. S. boiler manufacturing industry, in combination with innovatively-engineered applications. In other words, from the perspective of the small-business members of the boiler and combustion equipment manufacturing community, it looks like EPA is proposing reasonable, pragmatic, cost-conscious air quality rules that are readily and technically achievable by real world boilers – which are the products my members make. When compared with earlier incarnations, the rules EPA has proposed today seemingly decrease costs of compliance in many areas while at the same time increasing overall potential health benefits. EPA is to be commended in its efforts to listen and to be responsive to those affected by these rules – both the regulated entities and the equipment suppliers – and to leave the door open for even further modifications if technically warranted. The agency has apparently heard the concerns of those impacted by the original ICI Boiler MACT rules and has adjusted and re-adjusted their rules’ requirements in a way that few, if any, of the vast majority should have trouble cost-effectively meeting. When finalized, these rules still hold a strong promise to create additional, high-paying skilled and unskilled domestic manufacturing jobs in the boiler and in associated industries – at a time when those jobs are sorely needed in communities across the country. And they will be created without compromising efforts to improve the health and well-being of millions of Americans or by imposing overwhelming and unnecessary costs on existing boiler facilities. In addition, EPA’s work-place standards not only address the issue of lower emissions, regular boiler tune-ups are also a vital component of boiler safety and of operational efficiency. Boiler manufacturers generally hope that today’s practical actions by EPA – in response to newly-supplied industry data and thousands of prior public comments, including those of ABMA -- will discourage any further efforts in Congress to arbitrarily impose by legislative fiat what are now unnecessary and arbitrary delays in the ongoing rulemaking process. Not only has EPA provided far more flexibility in how the Boiler MACT rules will be applied and can be interpreted and implemented, EPA is providing yet another 60 days for even more public review, additional comments, and for possible tweaking of any remaining problem areas. That’s how the process should work. Lengthy, ill-advised additional delays over and above those already contemplated by EPA will produce only on-going market uncertainty and will yield no new jobs, no economic growth and no cleaner air or any cheaper ultimate compliance options than are now feasible and readily available from existing sources.

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