Wastewater Utilities Sue EPA Over Sludge Incineration Rule

Date: May 26, 2011

Source: News Room

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), which represents publicly-owned wastewater treatment plants, is suing EPA over its air toxics rule for sewage sludge incinerators, arguing that the regulation has major scientific and legal flaws which underestimate its potentially massive costs on wastewater utilities. NACWA filed suit May 6 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenging the agency's new source performance standards and emissions guidelines for sewage sludge incineration units. EPA published the final rule on the March 21 as part of a suite of regulations -- including a criticized maximum achievable control technology standard to cut boilers' toxic emissions (the Boiler MACT) -- that other industry groups are asking the agency to reconsider and are challenging in court. Prior to the rule's passage, NACWA fought to have sewage sludge incinerators regulated under less-stringent legal requirements contained in section 112 of the Clean Air Act rather than under stricter section 129 requirements as eventually adopted by EPA which decided that the sludge they burn is a waste, not a fuel.

Stakeholders had until May 16 -- 60 days from the rule's publication in the Register -- to file suit over the rules. The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), along with nine other industry groups, on May 9 filed a petition asking the agency to reconsider key aspects of the package of rules, raising issues with the "achievability of several of the standards for existing and new boilers -- especially those that use biomass," according to an AF&PA press release.

In response to industry petitions, EPA on May 16 said it would use its authority under the Administrative Procedure Act to stay the air toxics rules for boilers and a new source performance standard to cut emissions from commercial and industrial solid waste incineration (CISWI) units.

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