EPA Finalizes Clean Air Standards for Industrial Boilers

By Anna Simet | December 21, 2012

The U.S. EPA has finalized changes to Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators, which it reported will lessen particle pollution controls requirements for biomass units and lower compliance costs.

The standards will not affect about 99 percent of approximately 1.5 million U.S. boilers, which can meet the new standards by conducting periodic maintenance or regular tune-ups. The EPA crafted the final adjustments based on an extensive analysis of data and input from states, environmental groups, industry, lawmakers and the public. As a result of information gathered through this review, the EPA said the final rule dramatically cuts the cost of implementation by individual boilers that EPA proposed in 2010.

Final adjustments to Air Toxic Standards for Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Boilers at Area Source Facilities, which consist of the 99 percent of boilers that aren’t considered major sources of emissions and not imposed with any new requirements, include, but is not limited to a two-year extension of initial compliance date for existing area source boilers subject to the tune-up requirement;  revision of the deadline for initial notification for existing area source boilers to no later than January 20, 2014; provisions for existing dual-fuel fired units that fuel switch from gas to coal, biomass or oil such that they would still be considered existing sources; and requirements of tune-ups every five years, instead of every two, for certain area source boilers.

The EPA also finalized revisions to the Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials Rule to provide clarity on what types of secondary materials are considered non-waste fuels, and provide greater flexibility in rule implementation. The final rule classifies a number of secondary materials as categorical non-wastes when used as a fuel, and allows for operators to request that EPA identify specific materials through rulemaking as a categorical non-waste fuel.

Final standards and emissions guidelines for commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators include adjusted emissions limits and monitoring provisions, carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM) in particular, and clarification about which units qualify as CISWI units

Final adjustments to the Air Toxics Standards for Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters and Major Source Facilities include—but is not limited to—adding new subcategories for light and heavy industrial liquids to reflect design differences in the boilers that burn these fuels; adding new emission limits for PM that are different for each biomass fuel subcategory to better reflect emissions during real‐world operating conditions; adding new emission limits for CO based on newly submitted data that shows CO emissions from boilers vary greatly; and Increasing flexibility in compliance monitoring by adding alternative monitoring approaches for demonstrating continuous compliance with the PM limit.

The EPA estimates the annualized cost to implement these standards to be between $1.4 to $1.6 billion. The costs to comply per boiler are expected to decrease from the costs associated with the March 2011 standards because of data‐driven changes to the emission limits, including less stringent requirements for particle pollution controls for biomass units.

"The EPA's final standards look to balance health concerns, technological achievability, and compliance costs in a way that will pull our industry forward," said BTEC Executive Director Joseph Seymour. "Reasonable and attainable standards for emissions and efficiency allow the biomass thermal industry to offer a viable alternative to fossil fuels that can be adopted by the public and supported by government. BTEC is committed to a dialogue with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to facilitate continuous improvement for community-scale biomass boilers."

To access a copy of the final rule in full, click here.