EPA is under a court order to issue final boiler rules on January 16, 2011. In its motion filed Tuesday in the federal District Court for the District of Columbia, the EPA seeks to extend the schedule to finalize the rules by April 2012.
In order to meet the court order requiring the issuance of final rules in January 2011, the agency proposed standards in April 2010. While EPA requested and received some information from industry before the proposal, the comments EPA received following the proposal 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.
"After receiving additional data through the extensive public comment period, EPA is requesting more time to develop these important rules," said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.
The rules, which require boilers to use maximum achievable control technology, are intended to cut emissions of harmful pollutants, including mercury and soot, which cause health effects from developmental disabilities in children to cancer, heart disease and premature death.
"We want to ensure these rules are practical to implement and protect all Americans from dangerous pollutants such as mercury and soot, which affect kids' development, aggravate asthma and cause heart attacks," McCarthy said.
Boiler at Chicago's first vertical farm, Plant Chicago (Photo by Plant Chicago)
EPA estimates there are more than 200,000 boilers operating in industrial facilities, commercial buildings, hotels and universities located in urban areas and smaller communities across the country.
The boiler industry, represented by the Council of Industrial Boiler Operators, released a study in September that projects up to $113 billion in compliance costs and over 300,000 jobs "at risk" associated with the proposed boiler rules.
The economic impact study conducted by IHS Global Insight has been used to lobby against the proposed boiler rules before Congress and the EPA.
The study analyzed three different compliance scenarios that could result depending upon how EPA finalizes its proposed Boiler MACT rule for Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional boilers and process heaters.
Across all three scenarios, the study found that every $1 billion spent on upgrade and compliance costs could put 16,000 jobs at risk and reduce the U.S. Gross Domestic Product by $1.2 billion.
CIBO President Robert Bessette, said, "This study offers an eye-opening look at the economic damage that could be caused if EPA moves forward with this Boiler MACT rule without substantial modifications."
But the National Association of Clean Air Agencies criticized the boiler industry study on factual grounds.
NACAA says the number of sources that must install controls was grossly overestimated by the study, and the projected cost of the rule did not incorporate positive economic benefits from new capital investment, including the creation of new jobs.
The boiler industry study failed to include the positive impacts of increased life expectancy, reduced health care costs and other health-related benefits were not factored in the report, NACAA said.
EPA has estimated that for every $5 spent on reducing these pollutants from industrial boilers, the public will see $12 in health and other benefits.
In addition, NACAA said, one-time project costs were overestimated; and assumptions about the negative impact of investments in pollution controls are unlikely in the current economy.
Emissions from a boiler at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania (Photo by Colin Purrington)
Industry is strongly opposing the current version of the boiler rules. Fifty industry associations signed onto the letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson dated November 11 that says, "We support efforts to address significant health threats from air emissions in a cost effective manner, and also believe that regulations can be crafted to accomplish this and still protect jobs and economic growth."
"Specifically, we encourage EPA to set standards based on what real-world sources actually can achieve," the industry associations wrote.
"EPA has proposed a pollutant-by-pollutant approach based on the 'best performers' for each of five separate Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP)/ surrogate emissions categories," the industry associations wrote. "This approach had many data and methodology problems, and resulted in a set of standards such as those for dioxin, mercury and carbon monoxide that cannot be met by even the best performing actual boilers and process heaters."
On Tuesday, the EPA told the court that after reviewing the data and the more than 4,800 public comments, the agency believes it is appropriate to issue a revised proposal that reflects the new data and allows for additional public comment.
The EPA said in a statement, "This approach is essential to meeting the agency's legal obligations under the Clean Air Act and, as a result, provides the surest path to protecting human health and the environment."
The American Forest & Paper Association, whose members operate many boilers, has joined members of Congress of both parties in calling on the U.S. Commerce Department to publicly release its analysis of the economic and job consequences of the boiler rules.
AF&PA President and CEO Donna Harman said, "Media reports have suggested that Commerce's analysis shows job losses of 40,000-60,000 jobs per year in the initial years of implementation of the Boiler MACT rule. If true, these numbers would sharply contradict EPA and NACAA analyses and support the findings of independent research released by AF&PA and other industry groups."
U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, said she is encouraged by the EPA's decision requesting a court delay of the boiler rules.
"The rule has created uncertainty in the boiler industry and earlier this week a school in rural Maine turned down a federal energy grant to install a wood-pellet boiler because of the concerns about compliance with this new rule," Snowe said. "In addition, the EPA has admitted that the initial rule was 'too tight,' but has continued to deny requests to release the Commerce Department's economic data on the proposed rule."
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