US revises boiler rules, but manufacturers still opposed

02 December 2011 18:46  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US regulators on Friday issued revised rules governing emissions by refinery, chemical and other plant boilers, but the changes drew renewed opposition from manufacturers and only a cautious recognition by chemical leaders.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that its revised “Boiler MACT” rules now would apply chiefly to some 14,000 boilers at chemical plants, refineries and other industrial facilities instead of the more than 200,000 power or heat boilers originally covered in the agency’s first proposal.

When the EPA initially proposed new rules in April 2010 requiring maximum available control technology (MACT) covering industrial boilers, production furnaces and incinerators, there was broad and heated reaction from across industry.

The initially proposed boiler emissions requirements drew comments from nearly 5,000 industry organisations, interest groups and stakeholders who warned that the new rule would force many factories to shut down, creating as many as 60,000 job losses in the chemicals sector alone.

The rule also drew fire from 41 US senators and more than 100 House members who warned it would undermine a still wobbly US economy. 

The rule was targeted by legislation that has been approved by the House, which would delay implementation of the rule and give industry multiple years to reach compliance.

In May this year, the EPA announced it was suspending the proposed boiler MACT rules and would seek additional input from industry, environmentalists and other stakeholders.

In issuing the reconsidered Boiler MACT proposed rules on Friday, the EPA said they would still achieve extensive emissions reductions but also allow more flexibility by industry in meeting the requirements.

The agency said that based on input from industry and other stakeholders, it now holds that more than 99% of boilers in the US – such as power and heat boilers at shopping malls, hospitals, hotels and schools – will not be covered by the revised rules or would need only minor adjustments to reach compliance.

Instead, the new rules focus chiefly on approximately 14,000 boilers and process furnaces located at refineries, chemical plants and other industrial sites, the agency said, saying that these categories comprise “less than 1% of all boilers in the US”.

The agency also said that more flexible compliance options in the rules will reduce costs to industry by 50%.

But the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) said on Friday that the revised boiler emissions rules would still “do significant harm to job growth and investment at a critical time in our recovery”.

“It is yet another example of the EPA pursuing an aggressive agenda that is putting jobs at risk and creating uncertainty throughout the economy,” said NAM president Jay Timmons.

Timmons said his group and its 14,000 manufacturer members would urge the EPA to further revise the proposed rules, and he said a legislative remedy by Congress was necessary to rein-in EPA and provide industry with some certainty.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) also urged action by Congress to broadly modify the EPA’s pending rules in this and other areas of industrial emissions controls.

ACC president Cal Dooley said that the EPA’s revised boiler MACT rules do show some improvements and additional flexibility in compliance standards and timelines.

However, he added, because the proposed rules are subject to changes through pending litigation and final rulemaking by the EPA remains uncertain, congressional action is preferred “to ensure effective, achievable rules and adequate time for business to comply”.

He called on the US Senate to approve the “EPA Regulatory Relief Act” (HR-2250) that was passed by the House in mid-October.

The EPA said it expected to issue a final boiler MACT rule before mid-2012.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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