UPDATED: EPA gets only 1-month extension on boiler MACT

By Lisa Gibson | January 20, 2011

On Jan. 20, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the U.S. EPA an extension of only one month to release the final Maximum Achievable Control Technology rules. This was after the EPA had requested a six- or 15-month extension past the Jan. 16 deadline, citing an overwhelming number of comments on the proposed rule. MACT rules include standards for area source and major source polluters, as well as commercial and institutional solid waste incinerators. EPA preferred the 15-month option, which would have allowed for an entirely new proposal and another comment period.

"We are extremely disappointed with the court’s decision to not grant EPA the 15-month extension they requested,” said Donna Harman, president and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association. “The extension of one month falls well short of the time requested by the agency to allow a sound rule to be put forth. Regulations such as the boiler MACT rule have far reaching implications for communities, workers and businesses across the country. The overriding mission should be to produce a sound rule that keeps Americans healthy and employed, and today’s decision by the court fails to give the agency what it said it needed. Today’s decision invites more litigation, and ultimately everyone loses as a result of this short-sighted decision.” 

An EPA spokesperson declined to comment on the decision, but released an official statement from the agency. "EPA is disappointed that the extension was not longer," it said. "However, the agency will work diligently to issue these standards by this new deadline." EPA added that the final standards will be significantly different than the proposal, which was released in April. "The agency believes these changes still deserve further public review and comment and expects to solicit further comment through a reconsideration of the rules. Through the reconsideration process, EPA intends to ensure that the rules will be practical to implement and will protect all Americans from dangerous pollutants such as mercury and soot, which can damage children’s developing brains, aggravate asthma and cause heart attacks."

The American Wood Council also released a statement today expressing its disappointment with the ruling. “We are very disappointed in today’s ruling by the court to grant only a one-month extension of the Boiler MACT rulemaking process," the council said. “EPA had clearly stated that they received a much greater than normal response in the comment period and in that process gathered data they had not previously had when drafting the initial rule. Given the volume of comments and data received, EPA made the sound decision to ask for more time. It is disappointing that the court did not see fit to grant EPA’s request for a 15-month extension, forcing EPA to quickly put out a rule."

Under the current proposed rule, biomass boilers previously considered multifuel boilers would instead be classified as incinerators and be subject to new emission limits for five pollutants: mercury, hydrogen chloride, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and dioxin. Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association, has argued since its release in April that the proposed rule will devastate the biomass power industry, requiring expensive retrofits at virtually 100 percent of existing facilities. It will close plants and cost jobs, he added.