The EPA has released its final Clean Air Act standards for industrial boilers and incinerators, rules that the agency says will apply to less than 1 percent of those machines.
The standards now cover only the highest emitting boilers and incinerators, typically operating at refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities. According to the New York Times, affected boilers are also located at hospitals and universities.
The 99 percent of the approximately 1.5 million boilers in the US either aren’t covered by the rules because they burn clean natural gas at area source facilities and emit little pollution, or can meet the new standards by conducting periodic maintenance or regular tune-ups, according to the EPA.
Existing major source boilers that are subject to emission limits will have until early 2016 to comply with the standards and, if needed, they may request an additional year. Existing area source boilers will have until March 21, 2014 to comply with these standards, and can also request an additional year.
Existing incinerators have to comply by early 2018, and new incinerators will need to meet the standards 180 days after the rules are published in the Federal Register.
The new rules aim to reduce toxic air pollution including mercury and particle pollution. The EPA says the final standards will reduce mercury emissions by between 2 and 3 tons per year, non-mercury metals emissions by 2,100 tons per year, hydrogen chloride emissions by 40,500 tons per year, particulate matter emissions by 18,000 tons per year and sulfur dioxide emissions by 580,000 tons per year.
The agency estimates that for every dollar spent to reduce these pollutants, the public will see $13 to $29 in health benefits, including fewer instances of asthma and heart attacks, as well as fewer premature deaths.
The non-mercury metals and particulate matter emissions reductions, however, are lower than they would have been under the March 2011 final rule (see chart), which some business groups said would be far too costly to implement. EPA had estimated the total capital costs would be $9.5 billion in the year 2013.
EPA made the original proposals in 2010 and received more than 4,800 comments on the new rules before deciding to seek further comments on the new standards for boilers and incinerators.
The agency says the final adjustments to the standards are based on input from states, environmental groups, industry, lawmakers and the public, and “dramatically cuts the cost” of implementation by individual boilers. It doesn’t, however, give a dollar amount for that reduction.
EPA says the finalized standards will avoid up to 8,100 premature deaths, prevent 5,100 heart attacks and avert 52,000 asthma attacks per year in 2015.
To aid industries’ implementation of the standards, the EPA has also revised the non-hazardous secondary materials rule, refining the definition of “solid waste” materials in combustion units – which helps to determine whether these materials should be governed by the boiler standards or by solid waste incinerator regulations.
In a separate EPA action last week, to meet a court deadline, the agency issued final amendments to the 2010 clean air standards for the cement manufacturing industry. The final air toxics rule retains emission limits for mercury, acid gases and total hydrocarbons from the 2010 rules, along with retaining requirements that kilns continuously monitor compliance with limits for mercury, total hydrocarbons and particulate matter.
EPA says the rule will reduce pollution from Portland cement manufacturing over 2010 levels when fully implemented, cutting emissions of mercury by 93 percent, hydrochloric acid by 96 percent, PM by 91 percent, and total hydrocarbons by 82 percent.
The agency estimates that cement kilns will have to spend $52 million less to implement requirements in the revised rule than the 2010 rule.