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EPA Revises Boiler and Incinerator Rules

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday issued industrial boiler pollution rules that it says will see industry incur only half the expense as regulations the agency proposed last year.

The final Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators will ensure significant public health protections through reductions in toxic air emissions, including mercury, soot and dioxins, the EPA said. At an estimated $1.8 billion, industry’s installation and maintenance of required pollution control equipment will cost about half as much as with the previous rules, the EPA said.

The EPA had estimated the earlier rules’ total capital costs would be $9.5 billion in the year 2013.

The latest version also “dramatically refines and updates” the rules for small boilers, including those located at universities, hospitals, hotels and commercial buildings, the EPA said.

But the EPA also said it will “reconsider” certain aspects of the boiler and incinerator rules, and seek further public comment on those portions.

The EPA released the standards following the end of a court-granted grace period for revising rules that the agency first announced in April 2010. The EPA has been revising the rules after receiving more than 4,800 comments from businesses and communities, including, it said, “a significant amount of information that industry had not provided prior to the proposal”.

Industries have voiced concerns about the potential costs of the rules. Last September, a coalition of 17 industry groups called for EPA to scale back its proposals, claiming the new rules would stifle economic recovery. The Council of Industrial Boiler Owners had projected the cost of the earlier rules at $20 billion and as many as 300,000 lost jobs, Bloomberg reported.

Yesterday, some business groups said the regulations remain too costly.

“While considering the Boiler MACT rules over the past year, it is clear that EPA has made an effort to protect industry jobs; however, they still have not succeeded,” said Mike Draper, chairman of the Forest Products Industry National Labor Management Committee. “Industries have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to update boilers and comply with previous EPA requirements.”

Aric Newhouse, the National Association of Manufacturers’ senior vice president for policy and government relations, said the rules will have an “immediate, negative impact on manufacturers’ bottom lines at a time when they are trying to rebound economically and create jobs”.

But assistant administrator Gina McCarthy said that the regulations will create 2,200 new jobs, not included those involved in making or installing pollution controls, Bloomberg reported.

“Based on input from key stakeholders including the public, industry and the public health communities, today’s announcement represents a dramatic cut in the cost of implementation, while maintaining maximum public health benefits,” the agency said in a press release.

The EPA said that for every dollar spent to cut these pollutants, the public will receive between $10 and $24 in health benefits. The agency said the standards will avoid between 2,600 and 6,600 premature deaths, prevent 4,100 heart attacks and prevent 42,000 asthma attacks per year in 2014.

About 200,000 boilers are located at small and large sources of air toxic emissions, the EPA said: about 13,800 at large sources such as refineries and chemical plants, and about 187,000 at small sources. The $1.8 billion cut in implementation costs includes $1.5 billion savings for large boiler owners and $209 million savings for small boiler owners, the EPA said.

The revised rules for small boilers requires those facilities to acquire “generally available control technology” rather than “maximum achievable control technology,” the EPA said.

The rules also cover 88 solid waste incinerators that burn waste at commercial or industrial facilities, including cement plants. These standards will reduce emissions of pollutants including mercury, lead, cadmium, nitrogen dioxide and particles, and will need to be met by 2016, the EPA said. It said the cost of meeting these standards had been reduced by about $12 million.

The EPA said it will work with other departments to provide technical assistance to operators of facilities with boilers. The Department of Energy will work with large coal and oil-burning sources, and the Department of Agriculture will work with owners of small sources.

In a separate but related action, the EPA said yesterday that it is finalizing emissions standards for sewage sludge incinerators. The agency said it expects that over 150 of the 200 sewage sludge incinerators around the country are already in compliance with the rules, which aim to reduce emissions of pollutants including mercury, lead, cadmium and hydrogen chloride.

The remaining 50, the agency said, “may need to leverage existing technologies to meet the new standards”.

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