Changes proposed for Clean Air Act standards for boilers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing changes to Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators based on analysis, review and consideration of data and input from states, environmental groups, industry, lawmakers and the public. The changes cut the cost of implementation by nearly 50 percent from the original 2010 proposed rule.

For 86 percent of the 1.5 million boilers in the U.S., these rules would not apply because they burn natural gas at area source facilities and have few emissions.

For boilers at large sources of emissions such as power plants, EPA is proposing to create additional subcategories for light and heavy industrial liquids to reflect design differences in the boiler. The changes also include new emissions limits for particulate matter and carbon monoxide, and replace numeric dioxin emissions limits with work practice standards, said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, during a conference call. Analysis of dioxin levels show that emissions are below levels that the agency can detect, McCarthy said. Mercury and HCL standards are slightly modified, more appropriate and tigher than what was previously proposed.

EPA is also proposing to allow more flexibility for units burning natural gas to qualify for work practice standards and reduce some monitoring requirements. The agency estimates the cost of implementing these standards is $1.5 billion less than the April 2010 proposals.

“The new set of Boiler MACT and related rules set forth by the EPA this morning are an important step toward a realistic and achievable boiler emissions mandate for the biomass industry," said Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. "The changes indicate recognition by the EPA of the value of biomass not only for the environment, but also for the economy. The new rules remove a number of provisions that, by the Agency’s own admission, were flawed."

However, W. Randall Rawson, president and CEO of the American Boiler Manufacturer’s Association, argues that the proposed changes are still not achievable by “real-world boilers.”

“Given that these rules are boiler-room-condition specific and do not necessarily impact every single boiler room the same way, realistic and meaningful analysis of whether they are workable or not has to be based on specific, individual boiler room analysis, as well as an analysis of the permit that boiler room holds,” Rawson said.

Existing boilers would have three years to comply with the new standards and can obtain an additional year if technology can't be installed in time. The public has 60 days to comment on the rule after it is published in the Federal Register.

To view the re-proposed rulemaking, click here.

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