EPA releases timeline for MACT reconsideration

By Lisa Gibson | June 28, 2011

Although it had already announced in February that it would allow a reconsideration period for certain aspects of the Maximum Achievable Control Technology rules, the U.S. EPA on June 24 released for the first time a deadline for that reconsideration of October. Subsequently, final standards must be issued by April 2012.

The final MACT rules were released in February, but EPA announced at that time it would have a reconsideration period in light of the overwhelming number of comments received pertaining to the April 2010 proposed rules, as well as the court’s denial of an extension for the EPA to issue the final rules. The agency had asked for either a six-month or 15-month extension past its January 2011 deadline, the latter allowing for a complete reproposal and another comment period. Instead, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit allowed just one more month.

The rules encompass standards for four source categories—major source industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and process heaters; area source industrial, commercial and institutional boilers; commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators; and sewage sludge incinerators—as well as an updated definition of solid waste, crucial in determining which rules a technology will fall under.

After the final standards were issued in February, multiple industry groups petitioned the agency to delay the effective date of standards for major source boiler and commercial industrial solid waste incinerators. In May, the EPA temporarily suspended the effective date of those standards, but not standards for area source boilers. “The stay will remain in place until the proceedings for judicial review of these rules are completed or EPA completes its reconsideration of the standards, whichever is earlier,” an EPA spokesperson said.

If the reconsideration illuminates new issues, the EPA does have the authority to make changes, according to the EPA spokesperson. The biomass power industry has had more than one contention with the rules, both proposed and final. While the final rule does eliminate numerical emission standards for some types of area source boilers, it increases emission standards in other areas. In addition, the definition of solid waste is still concerning for some biomass developers, as falling under that category would mean much stricter standards.

The rules have been a controversial topic since their initial proposal and especially after the final was released. Elsewhere, legislators are now working on a bill that would allow the EPA more time to develop meaningful and effective rules.