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EPA Adjusts Rules for Largest Boilers



Based on public comment and additional data, the US Environmental Protection Agency finalized a set of adjustments to Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain solid waste incinerators.

The final adjustments to the March 2011 standards affect only the largest and highest emitting boiler units: major source and affected area source boilers. Owners of these boilers will have three years to comply and can be granted a fourth year if needed to install controls. The EPA also has tools to address, on a case- by-case basis, additional concerns arising for individual sources.

Major source boilers are located at large sources of air pollutants, including refineries, chemical plants, and other industrial facilities. Boilers located at small sources of air toxics emissions are known as area source boilers. These are located at universities, hospitals, hotels and commercial buildings.

A commercial and industrial solid waste incinerator (CISWI) unit is a device that is used to burn solid waste at a commercial or industrial facility. This includes units designed to discard solid waste; energy recovery units designed to recover heat that combust solid waste; and waste burning kilns that combust solid waste in the manufacturing of a product. There are 106 CISWI units covered by these standards

The EPA’s new adjustments are intended to:

  • Retain important emissions reductions of pollutants such as mercury, particle pollution, sulfur dioxide, dioxin, lead, and nitrogen dioxide. These pollutants can cause a range of dangerous health effects – from developmental disabilities in children to cancer, heart disease and premature death.
  • Maintain direct benefits to many communities where people live very close to these units.
  • Avoid up to 8,100 premature deaths, 5,100 heart attacks, and 52,000 asthma attacks.
  • Be cost effective, with EPA estimating that Americans will receive $13 to $29 in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the final standards. In addition, EPA’s analysis shows a small net increase in jobs.

The adjustments were made in response to multiple requests for reconsideration of certain aspects of the 2011 rules and recognize the diverse and complex range of boiler uses and fuels. The latest and best information provided during the rule development and reconsideration processes resulted in the EPA:

  • Adjusting emission limits for certain pollutants in certain categories of major boilers and CISWI. Because EPA followed the Clean Air Act, the changes resulted in both less and more stringent emission limits, depending on what the new data demonstrated.
  • Adding to and refining the list of the subcategories of boilers that EPA uses to provide the right standards for the right boilers.
  • Allowing the necessary time to implement the standards by establishing the compliance deadlines for major boilers and CISWI units in 2016 and 2018, respectively. These units will have three to five years, respectively, to comply with these adjusted standards, and can do so with proven, currently available technologies.
  • Maintaining numerical emission limits for the highest emitting 0.4 percent of all boilers. These will not apply to 86 percent of all boilers in the United States because these boilers burn clean natural gas and emit little toxic air pollution. The rest would need to follow work practice standards, such as annual tune-ups, to minimize toxics.

In a separate but related action, EPA revised the non-hazardous secondary materials rule (NHSM). This rule defines which materials are, or are not, “solid waste” when burned in combustion units. The NHSM rule helps determine which standards, either boiler or CISWI, a unit that burns these materials will be required to meet.

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