US chemicals sector welcomes House vote on boiler rule

14 October 2011 20:23  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Chemical industry officials on Friday welcomed US House approval of a bill to postpone pending federal rules on industrial boiler emissions to late 2012 and give industry up to five years to comply with the requirement.

Late on Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 275-142 to approve HR-2250, the “EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011”.

The measure was heavily supported by Republicans, with 234 voting in favour and none opposed, but it also got support from 41 Democrats.

The bill was backed by US chemicals manufacturers who, along with hundreds of other industry and manufacturing trade groups and stakeholders, had strongly opposed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed “Boiler MACT” rule.

Under the EPA proposal first issued in April 2010, chemical producers, other industrial or manufacturing plants and a wide variety of commercial facilities operating boilers, process heaters and incinerators would be required to impose “maximum achievable control technology” (MACT) to sharply reduce emissions of pollutants.

But industry argued that the rule would impose huge costs on many facilities and force others to shut down, resulting in job losses across the nation. As many as 200,000 industrial facilities were expected to be affected by the rule.

The bill gives the EPA another 15 months to reformulate the Boiler MACT rule so that it would propose emissions reductions “that are achievable by real-world boilers, process heaters and incinerators”.

It also gives industry five years to comply with the regulation when it is finally issued, compared with the three-year compliance timetable in the original proposal.

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) hailed the House passage of HR-2250, saying that the bill’s “emphasis on flexible work practices and achievable standards is essential”.

SOCMA and other chemical trade groups had argued that the rule as proposed by the EPA had set unachievable standards and the costs of compliance would be “grossly disproportionate to any minimal environmental gain that would be achieved”.

Paul Cicio, president of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA), also welcomed the House vote, expressing confidence that the US Senate would pass the measure as well.

“We are encouraged by the bipartisan support in the Senate for S-1392,” Cicio said, referring to the Senate version of HR-2250.

IECA’s member companies are all high-volume energy consumers, and include chemicals producers along with automotive, paper and foods manufacturers.

Cicio noted that the Senate bill has 35 cosponsors, including 11 Democrats. With 35 of the Senate's 100 members cosponsoring the bill, it is seen as having solid prospects.

“S-1392 is recognised by most senators as a common sense approach to regulating air pollutants, but ensuring that the emissions reductions are achievable and with adequate compliance time,” Cicio said.

“Senators have not forgotten that the manufacturing sector has lost 5.7m jobs since 2000,” he added, “a 33% reduction.”

The White House had earlier indicated that President Barack Obama is opposed to the bill and might veto it if it clears the Senate.

However, Cicio said that if the bill does pass in the Senate with strong bipartisan support, he expects that Obama will sign it.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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