EPA needs more time on boiler and incinerator rules

Under intensifying fire from industry, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asked a federal court for more time to finalize its regulation of emissions from boilers and solid waste incinerators.

The EPA said it asked the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for permission to issue the rules by April 2012.

Currently, it is under a court order to issue the rules by next month. Recent analysis earlier this month by the Department of Commerce (DOC) predicts job losses of 40,000 to 60,000 per year stemming from prohibitively high costs of compliance with the rule as proposed. The DOC report said facility closures and a decline in the international competitiveness of United States goods would be responsible.

The boiler rule, which is intended to cut emissions of mercury, soot and other pollutants that it says are linked with developmental disabilities in children, asthma and heart attacks, sets maximum achievable control technology (MACT) requirements to reduce air toxics emissions from boilers that are large enough to qualify as “major sources” of air toxics as required under the Clean Air Act.

The boiler MACT proposal is part of a suite of rules to control emissions from boilers, including an air toxics rule for smaller “area” sources of emissions, an air toxics rule for incinerators, and rule that defines solid waste to determine whether sources are subject to boiler rules or more stringent incinerator rules. Following complaints from members of Congress as well as several industry groups, the EPA recently offered concessions including “subcategorizing” boilers to a set of varying air toxics standards depending on the type of boiler.