Court Gives EPA 30 Days to Revise Boiler Emissions Rules

WASHINGTON, DC, January 21, 2011 (ENS) – The U.S. EPA’s deadline to issue emission standards for large and small boilers and solid waste and sewage sludge incinerators has been extended 30 days by a federal District Court judge in Washington, DC.

EPA said in a statement after the ruling Thursday that the agency “is disappointed that the extension was not longer. However, the agency will work diligently to issue these standards by this new deadline.”

Industry groups are pleased with the court-granted extension to February 21, while environmental groups are impatient with the delay.

On April 29, 2010, EPA proposed a set of regulations under the Clean Air Act that address emissions from boilers, process heaters, and certain solid waste incinerators. The Maximum Achievable Control Technology for Industrial Boilers regulations would reduce cut emissions of mercury and lead – pollutants that are of particular concern for children.

Through the reconsideration process, EPA intends to ensure that the rules will be practical to implement and will protect all Americans from dangerous pollutants such as mercury and soot, which can damage children’s developing brains, aggravate asthma and cause heart attacks.

“The standards will be significantly different than what EPA proposed in April 2010,” the EPA said Thursday. “The agency believes these changes still deserve further public review and comment and expects to solicit further comment through a reconsideration of the rules.”

EPA received more than 4,800 comments and additional data during the public comment period for the rules proposed in April 2010. This information shed new light on a number of key areas, including the scope and coverage of the rules and the way to categorize the various boiler types.

Given the extensive comments, EPA filed a motion with the court asking for more time to fully evaluate all the comments and data and finalize the rules.

International Paper Company’s paper mill in Georgetown, South Carolina (Photo credit unknown)

With only a 30-day extension, the agency is considering all other options for addressing these issues before the rules would become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

American Forest & Paper Association President and CEO Donna Harman said today, “I commend EPA for announcing that it intends to provide further public review and comment after the Boiler MACT rules are finalized to meet the extremely tight, court-mandated deadline. I am pleased that EPA has stated that the rule to be issued next month will be ‘significantly different than what EPA proposed in April 2010.’”

“Yesterday’s ruling by the court was very disappointing, but EPA is showing the leadership necessary to have an opportunity to get the rule right,” said Harman, whose organization includes many members that operate industrial boilers.

“Just this week, President Obama signed an executive order pledging a re-evaluation of regulations to ensure they do not stifle job growth,” Harman said. “This regulation provides a great opportunity for the Administration to implement the President’s directive.”

But environmentalists warn that who live near the boilers are getting sick and every day of delay costs more people their health, and sometimes their lives.

“Industry has done everything it can to delay these clean up measures,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “These polluters must be held accountable. Unchecked toxic air pollution from industrial plants is making our families sick.”

The EPA’s draft health safeguard for boilers and incinerators is expected to save nearly 5,000 lives each year and prevent 3,000 heart attacks, 33,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and millions of acute respiratory problems, said Brune.

The benefits of the proposed health safeguard are projected to outweigh the costs by at least $14 billion every year, the EPA has said.

The safeguard could also result in the creation of up to 9,000 jobs as pollution controls and new technologies are installed, according to the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

“Every day that industry succeeds in delaying these crucial protections equates to human suffering in the form of lives lost and worsened health,” said Jim Pew of the environmental law firm Earthjustice.

“The rule undisputedly will prevent some of the unnecessary deaths and suffering caused by industrial boilers’ and incinerators’ uncontrolled emissions. Clean air saves lives, and it’s time for the companies that operate these big industrial facilities to become better neighbors by keeping their toxic pollution out of our homes, our air, and our food.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.