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Future Boiler MACT Standards Uncertain
The EPA recently released the final boiler MACT standards, along with a request for a reconsideration of the rules under a Clean Air Act process.

By DeAnna Stephens Baker
Date Posted: 4/1/2011

            The long-awaited final Clean Air Act standards for boilers have been released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, a reconsideration of the rules has already been announced by the agency.

            The agency received more than 4,800 comments in response to the proposed rules, including a significant amount of new information from industry members that had not provided prior to the proposal. Due to this, the EPA had requested a 15 month extension of its original court-ordered deadline of January to issue the rules, intending to use the additional time to consider the additional data received during the public comment period. Instead of the requested 15 month extension, the EPA was given only a 30 day extension by a federal District Court judge. The agency released the final standards in February to meet that new deadline. Because the final standards significantly differ from the proposals, the EPA believes further public review is required and announced that the agency will be reconsidering the final standards under a Clean Air Act process that allows the agency to seek additional public review and comment. EPA officials have emphasized that they consider the new standards scientifically sound, and that the reconsideration process is to allow time for public comment due to the significant difference between the proposal and final rule.

            “While these rules are, again, sound, reasonable and achievable, and they provide significant benefits, it’s important to offer the public a chance to comment,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “In essence, we need to be sure that procedural deficiencies are taken care of now, or we’re afraid the protections these rules will offer to the public won’t come until much, much later.”

            One of the significant changes is that the new standards cut the cost of implementation by about 50% compared to the proposal issued last year, according to EPA estimates. In addition, the agency estimates that for every dollar spent to cut pollutants under boiler MACT, the public will see between $10 and $24 in health benefits.

            While members of the forest products industry have said that the recently released rules are better than those originally proposed, additional changes are still being called for to prevent a significantly negative impact on the industry.

            “The Boiler MACT rules released today are an improvement from where we started last year, but our initial review indicates these rules fall short of what is ultimately needed to support jobs and the economy in the communities where our facilities operate,” said Donna Harman, president and CEO of American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA). “Businesses and other facilities across the country have invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few years to upgrade and improve their boilers to meet the previous EPA Boiler MACT requirements. Forcing billions more in investments to retrofit already environmentally good-performing boilers fails to allow targeting of scarce capital toward creating jobs and growing the economy in local communities supported by those facilities.” 

            Aric Newhouse, National Association of Manufacturers Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Relations called the final standards the latest example of the EPA’s aggressive, overreaching agenda and urged the EPA to undertake a common-sense approach that would encourages economic growth and job creation.

            “The new Boiler MACT rule will have an immediate, negative impact on manufacturers’ bottom lines at a time when they are trying to rebound economically and create jobs,” said Aric. “This is a harsh, inflexible rule that will cost jobs, hurt global competitiveness and may discourage projects that could otherwise lead to environmental improvements.”

            Boiler MACT has also gained the attention of many on Capitol Hill and beyond. During the regulatory process, over 200 members of Congress and 21 governors wrote letters to the EPA, expressing their concern over the impact that boiler MACT could have on jobs. Some members of Congress have specifically expressed concern that the EPA is ignoring economic costs of their regulatory actions.

            “This EPA has a track record of regulating too much too fast while ignoring potentially devastating economic consequences,” said Congressman Fred Upton. “The Boiler MACT rules are a perfect example of what happens when the EPA diverts its resources and attention away from its core responsibilities in order to pursue controversial regulatory schemes – such as its greenhouse gas regime – that lack support in Congress.”

            The EPA is now in the process of developing a proposed reconsideration notice that will identify the specific elements of the rules for which it is seeking further public comment. They will include issues in the major and area sources boilers rules and the commercial and industrial solid waste incineration rule. According to the EPA, information on how industry members can participate in the reconsideration process will be released soon.

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