Senate Bill Aims to Soften and Delay EPA Boiler MACT

Date: July 22, 2011

Source: News Room

A bipartisan group of senators has drafted a bill that would delay enactment and compliance deadlines for EPA's controversial air rules for boilers and incinerators, while at the same time clarifying that biomass, tire-derived fuel and other materials would not be subject to strict incinerator emissions requirements. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and others introduced a bill on July 20 that would delay EPA's final rules setting stricter maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards for boilers as well as a new source performance standard (NSPS) to cut emissions from commercial and industrial solid waste incineration (CISWI) units and a waste definition rule that determines to which of the air rules combustion units are subject. After issuing the rules, EPA exercised its discretion to stay portions of the CISWI and boiler rules, to reconsider certain aspects of them after receiving an overwhelming response from industry, lawmakers and others. Consequently, industry groups and the EPA have both asked a federal appellate court to stay litigation on the boiler rules, while EPA has asked the court to stay litigation on the CISWI rule. But litigation is continuing over the waste definition and a related rule addressing emissions from sewage sludge incinerators. The bill would delay implementation of EPA's boiler MACT, CISWI and solid waste rules by 15 months after the bill is enacted, giving EPA additional leeway should the agency want to push the finalization date back further. And it softens a host of regulatory provisions that have proven controversial with industry.

Among other things, the bill extends the compliance deadline for the rules to no earlier than five years, and requires that the agency take into account "the costs of achieving emissions reductions," "any non-air quality health and environmental impact and energy requirements of the standards and requirements" and "potential net employment impacts" into consideration when setting that compliance date.

The bill also seeks to clarify EPA's definition of solid waste rule which determines which non-hazardous secondary materials are considered to be solid waste and therefore subject to the more stringent CISWI rules. Under this rule, traditional fuels, including coal, oil and natural gas, and 'alternative' traditional fuels, such as cellulosic biomass, are not waste and can be burned in units following the less-stringent boiler rules. Units burning other materials can be exempt from strict incinerator requirements if they meet certain "legitimacy" criteria and remain under the control of the generator, or have been processed to produce a fuel, the rule says. The bill wants the EPA to go further by publish a list of materials that are not solid waste and thus are not subject to strict CISWI requirements, including "all forms of biomass," including resinated wood, treated wood and animal manure, solid and emulsified paraffin, tire-derived fuel, coal combustion residuals, non-chlorinated plastics and other materials.

However, environmental groups including Earthjustice and Sierra Club criticized the bill in a July 20 statement, saying that it "opens the door to a public health disaster." "This bill will allow smokestack industries to burn their wastes next door to schools, daycare centers, churches and hospitals without using currently available off-the-shelf control technology to reduce their toxic emissions." Sierra Club on July 15 filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review EPA's stay of the boiler MACT and the NSPS, which it calls illegal.

July 20, 2011

Senators Introduce Bill to Give EPA Adequate Time To Implement Boiler MACT Rule

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), and Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the time it has said it needs to adequately consider new boiler MACT rules.

In April 2010, pursuant to court orders, EPA first announced new Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) regulations on many fossil fuel and biomass-fired boilers in the United States. Recognizing that it needed more data and time to write the rule, in December 2010, EPA requested a 15-month extension to rework and finalize the rule, and to receive further public comment, which was rejected by a court. When EPA issued the rule in February of 2011, it immediately proposed that it be open to comment and revision. The bill would establish a clear timetable and conditions for reissuance of the regulations.

Specifically, this bipartisan legislation would:

  • Give EPA 15 months from the bill's date of enactment to re-propose and finalize the Boiler MACT regulations.

  • Extend compliance deadlines from three years to at least five years which would allow facilities adequate time to comply with the new standards and install necessary equipment.

  • Clarify that renewable and carbon-neutral materials remain classified as fuel and not solid waste.

  • Direct EPA to ensure that the new rules are achievable by real-world boilers, process heaters, and incinerators, and impose the least burdensome regulator alternatives consistent with the President's Executive Order.

"The EPA performs vital functions in helping to protect the public health by ensuring that the air we breathe is clean and the water we drink is safe. We need, however, to make sure that as the EPA issues new regulations, it does not create so many roadblocks to economic growth that it discourages private investment, which is the key to maintaining and creating jobs," said Senator Collins. "At a time when manufacturers are struggling to retain jobs, it is essential that this rule not jeopardize thousands of jobs in manufacturing, particularly in the forest products industry, by imposing billions of dollars of new costs. Our legislation provides common sense solutions to the challenges the EPA is facing in attempting to implement these complicated rules, which if written without proper data, analysis, and consideration, would cost the industry billions of dollars and potentially thousands of jobs."

"EPA itself has admitted that its boiler rules need to be fixed," Senator Wyden said. "As they are written now, the rules will stymie the burgeoning biomass energy industry and make it very difficult for existing lumber and wood products mills to operate. This legislation directs the EPA to go back to the drawing board and craft boiler rules that are more in line with what is realistic for mills and factories and does not restrict future use of biomass energy."

"The EPA's current boiler MACT rule is unrealistic, unreasonable and unachievable, and will send the cost to American businesses into the stratosphere," Senator Alexander said. "This bipartisan bill would give the EPA clearer and more reasonable guidelines for creating a rule that would help clean the air without hurting the businesses we count on to create more jobs."

"With manufacturing being one of the bright spots in our economic recovery, we cannot afford to jeopardize the industry's health and the high-paying jobs it supplies to this country. This legislation will give the EPA the time extension it needs to craft a balanced approach that not only keeps our environment clean, but also our economy strong," said Senator Landrieu.

"The pulp and timber industry in Arkansas want certainty so it can plan for the future, something that continuous litigation and unpredictable regulations currently do not provide," Senator Pryor said. "This legislation provides the EPA adequate time to work with industry and establish sensible and achievable regulations, once and for all."

"I have been very worried about what the EPA's new Boiler MACT rules will mean for Pennsylvania's manufacturing companies and their employees," Senator Toomey said. "From paper mills, to steel mills, to many other industries, there are thousands of jobs at stake in Pennsylvania. This bill would give many manufacturers immediate relief from overreaching, burdensome regulations at a time when we need them hiring and expanding."

This legislation is supported by the American Forest and Paper Association, National Association of Manufacturing, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, Business Roundtable, Biomass Power Association, and approximately 25 other national associations. A copy of the support letter is linked

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