On February 21, 2011, the EPA established Clean Air Act emissions standards for large and small boilers and incinerators that burn solid waste and sewage sludge. The standards cover more than 200,000 boilers and incinerators that emit air pollutants, including mercury, cadmium, dioxins and particle pollution.
The final rules, published on March 21, 2011, called for an effective date of May 20, 2011 with compliance deadlines beginning three years later.
But from the date of the EPA's first proposals in April 2010, manufacturers raised objections, saying that the agency's standards were not based on adequate information, were confusing, and were not technically achievable.
In response to the April 2010 proposals, the agency received more than 4,800 comments from businesses and communities, including information that EPA said industry had not provided prior to the proposals.
Based on this input, EPA made extensive revisions to the standards, and in December 2010 asked a federal district court for additional time for review to ensure the public's input was fully addressed.
The court granted EPA only 30 days, and the final rules were issued in February 2011.
Today the agency said it is "reconsidering the standards because the public did not have sufficient opportunity to comment on these changes, and, as a result, further public review and feedback is needed."
EPA will accept additional data and information on these standards until July 15, 2011.
International Paper Company mill in Georgetown, South Carolina (Photo by Pollinator)
On April 27, a petition arrived on the desk of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson from 18 manufacturing organizations affected by the boiler and incinerator standards. Led by the American Forest & Paper Association and the National Association of Manufacturers, the group included petroleum, coal, rubber, oilseed, sugar, chemicals, steel, and municipal power organizations.
Their petition express concern that they might not be able to achieve the standards and would suffer economic harm by being forced to install equipment to meet a tight schedule for compliance with standards that might be altered in the near future.
The manufacturers argued that the standards for dioxin and other emissions are "unlawful and unachievable."
They complained that in the final rules covering commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators, "EPA, without notice, fundamentally and unlawfully changed the definition of what constitutes a 'contained gaseous material,' resulting in widespread confusion among the regulated community over whether certain boilers are regulated under the Boiler rule or the CISWI rule because of the gases being combusted."
The petition states, "This confusion extends to combustion devices covered under other MACT standards." MACT stands for maximum achievable control technology, a Clean Air Act program that requires emissions be reduced to a maximum achievable degree, taking into consideration the cost of reductions and other factors.
"The rules pending reconsideration may force major shutdowns of U.S. industrial operations, costing jobs and devastating communities," the petitioners contended.
The industry petition maintained that, "Staying and reconsidering these rules will not cause any environmental harm; in fact, taking the time to properly address these issues and promulgate corrected and valid rules will promote timely compliance with the rules."
Today, the EPA agreed to stay and reconsider the rules, saying, "This process of careful consideration of public comments, and close attention to both costs and benefits," is consistent with President Barack Obama's directives with respect to regulation, as set out in executive order 13563, issued on January 18, 2011."
American Forest & Paper Association President and chief executive Donna Harman said, "As expected, the EPA has agreed to seek additional information and to postpone the effective date of the Boiler MACT and incinerator rules. These rules have been plagued from the outset by inadequate information and analysis as to the potential effects on the businesses, municipalities, universities, hospitals and other institutions that operate boilers."
"Businesses need certainty to operate and plan for compliance, and these rules still must undergo significant changes to make them technically achievable and to ensure the President's directive to find the most cost-effective method of regulating that is consistent with the law," said Harman.
"Ultimately, we believe legislation will be necessary to give EPA the full amount of time they requested and were denied by the Court," she said.
Harman said the 18 organizations plan to fully engage in the reconsideration process to help make these rules more achievable. "In addition," she said, "we will also continue to work with Members of Congress on legislation this year to address our concerns with this rule and to reduce the serious business uncertainty created by the rules."
National Association of Manufacturers Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse, said, "We hope today's announcement is an indication that the EPA understands the potentially devastating job impact of its regulatory agenda on manufacturing workers and the economy." Click here for detailed information about the final rules and the stay and reconsideration process.
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