US EPA suspends controversial boiler emissions rule

16 May 2011 23:05  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday said it would delay indefinitely its rule to sharply reduce emissions from industrial and commercial boilers, a move welcomed immediately by the chemicals sector.

The agency said that it would seek additional public and industry comment on the tough emissions standards for boilers and production furnaces that it issued in February this year.

That final rule would have required chemical producers, other industries and many commercial enterprises to install maximum available control technology (MACT) to sharply reduce emissions by an estimated 200,000 industrial boilers and incinerators across the country.

When first proposed in April 2010, the “Boiler MACT” rule drew broad opposition from nearly 5,000 industry organisations, interest groups and stakeholders who warned that the proposed regulation would force many factories to close down, causing as many as 60,000 job losses in the chemicals sector alone.

The Boiler MACT rule also drew opposition from 41 US senators and some 100 House members who warned it would undermine the already wobbly US economic recovery.

In its announcement on Monday, the EPA said that it “will issue a stay, postponing the effective date for the [Boiler MACT] standards... to allow the agency to continue to seek additional public comment before an updated rule is proposed”.

The agency did not say when it anticipated issuing an updated rule, indicating that the stay or suspension of the regulation essentially was open-ended.

The only time factor mentioned in the EPA announcement was the 15 July 2011 deadline for further public comment on the Boiler MACT rule.

The agency might need a month or more to evaluate the new comments before issuing a new proposed Boiler MACT rule, which in turn would be subject to more public comment before a final regulation would be issued, perhaps late this year.

Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said that Monday’s delay of the Boiler MACT rule was a wise response from the EPA to the appeal petition filed last month by the council and other industry trade groups.

“The stay will help ensure that US manufacturers and small businesses do not spend millions, if not billions, to comply with rules that are still under EPA review,” Dooley said.

He added that he was encouraged that the agency was seeking additional information and data as the EPA reconsiders “these far-reaching regulations”.

In Congress, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment Committee, welcomed the EPA delay.

“Given the strong opposition to the Obama-EPA Boiler MACT rules, it is hardly surprising that the administration is suspending their implementation,” Inhofe said.

“The administration understands that these rules would significantly damage a weak economy, raise energy prices and cost jobs,” he said, adding: “If President Obama didn’t take these steps [to suspend Boiler MACT], he would likely lose his own job.”

Inhofe indicated he would propose legislation to modify EPA action on boiler emissions.

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy


By: Joe Kamalick
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