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Environmental Enforcement: Court Grants Brief Boiler Rule Extension to EPA

A federal District Court judge in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20 issued an order extending by 30 days the Environmental Protection Agency’s deadline to issue emission standards for large and small boilers and solid waste and sewage sludge incinerators.

EPA said in a statement it was disappointed that the extension for its proposed rule was so brief, but promised to “work diligently to issue these standards by this new deadline.”

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

After receiving more than 4,800 comments and additional data during the public comment period, EPA asked the court in early December for an extra year to release the standards for controlling mercury and lead emissions and other pollutants at the facilities.

But environmental groups challenged the delay and the court ruled the EPA already had plenty of time to finalize the rules.

The “Boiler MACT” Rule, which would require operators of  approximately 200,000 boilers to install maximum achievable control technology (MACT) for toxic air pollutants such as mercury, has not been warmly received by industry since it was first proposed last year.

Last September, a coalition of 17 industry groups called for EPA to scale back its emission-controlling proposals for boilers, process heaters and certain solid waster incinerators, claiming the new rule would stifle economic recovery.

“If EPA is allowed to impose these new rules, it could slam the brakes on our economic recovery,” said Cal Dooley, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council in a prepared release at the time.  “This will force the postponement of planned investments in new industrial facilities, meaning fewer jobs will be created and existing jobs will be lost. We simply can’t afford this right now.”

EPA’s failed attempt to delay the new rules, and statement that it might reconsider them, may signal that the agency intends to take a more moderate approach to the final rule that it is now required to issue this May.

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