House approves EPA Regulatory Relief Act

By Lisa Gibson | October 14, 2011

Moving its way through Congress, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act has received bipartisan approval in the House, leaving Senate approval the last step in passage of legislation that would grant the EPA much-needed time to improve the flawed Maximum Achievable Control Technology Rules.

“I applaud the House for exhibiting strong, bipartisan leadership by passing H.R. 2250,” said Donna Harman, president and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association. “This is an important step toward protecting the tens of thousands of jobs affected by the costly boiler MACT rules by providing EPA the time it needs to write a more reasonable set of regulations.” 

“The biomass industry is extremely grateful to Rep. Morgan Griffith and the dozens of bipartisan co-sponsors from all over the country who have fought for this legislation,” said Bob Cleaves, President and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. “This bill is a critical step toward getting the Boiler MACT rules right the first time, saving the biomass industry millions of dollars in unnecessary costs, and sparing thousands of American jobs. We encourage the Senate to pass its version of the bill as soon as possible, and we look forward to working with the EPA to determine the maximum achievable emissions standards that will both protect the environment and preserve the biomass industry.”

The Regulator Relief Act would provide the EPA with at least 15 months to repropose the MACT rules for boilers, process heaters and incinerators; extend the compliance deadline from three to at least five years; direct EPA to adopt definitions allowing sources to use a wide range of alternative fuels; and direct EPA to ensure that the new rules are achievable by real-world boilers, process heaters and incinerators, and impose the least burdensome regulatory alternatives. 

The MACT 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.

The rules have had a rocky past and were criticized as unrealistic and unnecessarily expensive by many industries and agencies through the entire process since the proposals were released in April 2010. Nearly 5,000 comments were submitted on those proposals, overwhelming the EPA and prompting it to request a 15-month extension past its January deadline for the final rules. The court denied the request and ordered the agency to release the final rules in 30 days. The final rules were released in February and published in the Federal Register on March 21, although the standards for major source boilers and commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators are currently suspended.

“With the economy in a state of such uncertainty, now more than ever our leaders must protect the jobs we have and help manage the regulatory burden for the businesses that provide those jobs in order to maintain and eventually rebuild our economy,” Harman said. “We thank Congressmen Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) for their leadership in bringing this bill forward.

“We now urge the Senate to pass the EPA Regulatory Relief Act without delay so that we can have regulatory certainty, achievability and affordability.”