US EPA seeks 15-month delay for new boiler emissions rule

07 December 2010 19:47  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday said it would postpone for 15 months a controversial plan to further reduce emissions from industrial boilers, a decision that was welcomed by chemical producers.

The agency said that it filed a motion on Tuesday in a federal court seeking authorisation for a 15-month delay in implementing new environmental standards for an estimated 200,000 boilers and production furnaces across the country.

The agency was under a federal court order to issue the new rules by 16 January 2011, but because of broad, multi-industry complaints about the scope of the regulations, EPA told the court it needed more time to refine the proposed rules.

EPA asked the court to set a new publication deadline of April 2012.

As first proposed in April this year, the new requirements would require refiners, petrochemical plants, downstream chemical makers and a broad range of other industrial and commercial facilities to install “maximum available control technologies” (MACT) to sharply reduce toxic air pollution by boilers and process heaters.

Known as the “Boiler MACT” rule, the proposal drew quick and heated reaction from industrial and commercial sector officials who charged that the agency did not understand real-world boiler operations.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) was among nearly 5,000 organisations, interest groups and other stakeholders that filed comments critical of the agency’s initial proposal.

After other complaints raised by 41 US senators and some 100 House members of both parties, EPA amended the proposed rules in October.

But those amended rules were again challenged by the ACC and other industrial sectors. The council warned that if implemented as amended, the regulations would force some operations to shut down and could cost more than 60,000 lost jobs in the chemicals sector alone.

In filing its court motion seeking a 15-month delay, the agency said on Tuesday that the postponement was needed because “the comments EPA received following the proposal shed new light on a number of key areas, including the scope and coverage of the rules and the way to categorise various boiler types”.

“After reviewing the data and more than 4,800 public comments, the agency believes it is appropriate to issue a revised proposal that reflects the new data and allows for additional public comment,” EPA said.

ACC president Cal Dooley quickly welcomed the EPA delay, saying that “We’re encouraged that EPA is taking the time needed to develop an effective, achievable final rule”.

“Industry has provided additional data, which EPA can use to develop a realistic methodology based on real-world facilities, emissions and impacts,” Dooley said.

He said he hoped that the federal court would grant the agency’s request “for more time to work on these complex regulations that will affect large industries and small businesses across the country”.

Approval by the US District Court for the District of Columbia (Washington, DC) was expected. Federal courts typically give regulatory agencies broad although not unlimited discretion in rule-making.

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