EPA Weakens Final Air Standards for Industrial Boilers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday released final Clean Air Act standards for boilers and  incinerators that are less stringent than initially proposed.

The Agency was under federal court orders to produce an updated standard following years of neglect during the Bush administration. However, faced with stiff opposition in Congress, the EPA softened its stance–perhaps indicating a willingness to find compromise with House Republicans who seem bent on shutting down the Agency’s regulatory practices across the board.

According to the EPA, the new standards will reduce toxic air emissions, including mercury and soot, but cut the cost of implementation by about 50% from an earlier proposal issued last year. Reductions in cost result from allowing industrial boilers that burn renewable fuels to forego the installation of expensive technologies for decreasing emissions. And operators of smaller boilers will be allowed to meet requirements with maintenance, rather that installing new equipment.

EPA said it revised the draft standards based on community and industry
input to provide additional flexibility and cost effective techniques to
reduce pollution. 

EPA estimates the total cost of implementing the new standards to be
about $1.8 billion. The Agency said for every dollar spent to cut
pollutants, the public will see between $10 to $24 in health benefits.

Mercury, soot, lead and other harmful pollutants released by boilers and incinerators can lead to developmental disabilities in children, as well as cancer, heart disease, aggravated asthma and premature death in Americans. The new standards will avoid between 2,600-6,600 premature
deaths, prevent 4,100 heart attacks and avert 42,000 asthma attacks per year in 2014, EPA said.

Because the final standards significantly differ from the proposals,
EPA believes further public review is required. Therefore, EPA will
reconsider the final standards under a Clean Air Act process that allows
the agency to seek additional public review and comment to ensure full
transparency. EPA’s reconsideration will cover the emissions standards
for large and small boilers and for solid waste incinerators.

“Corporate polluters are literally making us sick, and these long overdue protections from EPA will save lives and improve the health of millions of Americans,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “Though the announcement today is modest by comparison to the proposals put forth by the EPA last June, we urge Administrator Lisa Jackson to forge ahead to protect our children and families’ health.”

“If the corporate lobbyists succeed in killing these health protections, Americans will pay the price with the lives and health of their family members,” said James Pew, staff attorney at Earthjustice–the environmental law group that sued the EPA to draft new boiler regulations.. “Controlling the toxic pollution from industrial boilers will save lives, prevent billions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs, and put thousands of Americans to work.”

EPA said the cost of implementing the new standards will include the creation of approximately 2,200 environmental jobs.

About 200,000 boilers are located at small and large sources of air
toxic emissions across the country. EPA said it is
working with the departments of Energy (DOE) and Agriculture (USDA) to
provide
technical assistance that will help boilers burn cleaner and more
efficiently. DOE will work with large coal and oil-burning sources to
help them identify clean energy strategies that will reduce harmful
emissions and make boilers run more efficiently. In
addition, USDA will reach out to small sources to help owners and
operators understand the standards and their cost and energy saving
features.

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