This week U.S. EPA finalized its long awaited rule making establishing air emission standards for industrial and commercial boilers.  The standards are to reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) by requiring sources to install or meet of Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT).

Controversial Rulemaking Process Comes to an End

EPA proposed MACT standards in spring of 2010 which were intended to replace previous rules that had been vacated by the D.C. Court of Appeals.  The spring proposal was met with harsh criticism from business interests who argued the standards were based on incomplete or inaccurate facts.  The business community argued that the poorly supported standards would result in huge costs.  In response, businesses poured in thousands and thousands of comments and supplied data supporting their arguments.

Reaction to the New Standards

Generally, most recognize the final rules are a huge improvement over the Spring 2010 proposal.  By some estimates, the final rules will cost about $1.8 billion less per year than the rules that were proposed last spring. 

However, there is still concern that the standards don’t provide needed flexibility.

“Despite the best efforts by the administration and [EPA], what we are left with is a rule that in spirit is a very positive development,” said Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. “I think a number of important changes were made. But I think it remains problematic.” (click here for more information on the Biomass Industry’s reaction to boiler MACT rules)

Some environmental groups are complimenting  EPA’s efforts to balance business concerns with protecting the environment.  Perhaps there is growing recognition that EPA’s regulations are under assault and there is a need for more balanced proposals. (see, NY Times Article on Boiler MACT Rules

"It appears that EPA has addressed many of the industry complaints while still putting out standards that would bring significant public health benefits," said Frank O’Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. "Let’s hope that EPA stands its ground when industries argue for further changes. "

Some appear ready to conclude that this proposal shows the President Obama is listening to concerns regarding the price of EPA regulations and will scale back earlier proposals.  This seems to be perhaps overreaching.  It is more likely that the business community did an excellent job providing EPA good data to demonstrate their earlier proposal was flawed.  No doubt the pressure from the business community helped EPA to take a close look at that data.

Below is some general information regarding the requirements in the new rule.

Boilers Are Covered?

  • Boilers that emit or have the potential to emit more than 10 tons per year (tpy) of a single HAP or more than 25 tpy of a combination of HAPs
  • Boilers that burn coal, oil, or biomass, or non-waste materials.  It excludes boilers that burn solid waste.
  • Different requirements apply to boilers classified as large boilers (10 million BTU per hour or greater) versus small boilers (less than 10 million BTU)
  • HAPs include mercury, lead, dioxin, furans, formaldehyde and hydrochloric acid

What Requirements Apply?

The rule establishes standards for emissions of mercury, particulate matter (PM)
(as a surrogate for non-mercury metals), and carbon monoxide (CO) (as a surrogate for
organic air toxics)

New Boilers

  • Coal-fired boilers, with heat input equal or greater than 10 million Btu per hour, are required to meet emission limits for mercury, PM, and CO.
  • Biomass and oil-fired boilers, with heat input equal or greater than 10 million Btu per
    hour, must meet emission limits for PM
  •  Boilers with heat input less than 10 million Btu per hour must perform a boiler tuneup
    every two years.

Existing Boilers

  • Coal-fired boilers, with heat input equal or greater than 10 million Btu per hour, are required to meet emission limits for mercury and CO.
  • Biomass boilers, oil-fired boilers, and small coal-fired boilers are not required to meet
    emission limits. They are required to meet a work practice standard or a management
    practice by performing a boiler tune-up every 2 years.
  • All area source facilities with large boilers are required to conduct an energy
    assessment to identify cost-effective energy conservation measures.

Reaction to Revised Rules