EPA Provides Additional Compliance Time For Boiler, Incinerator Air Pollution Standards

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

By Jessica Coomes  

The Environmental Protection Agency has adjusted air emissions limits for boilers and incinerators while giving industry additional time to comply with the standards.

In final rules signed Dec. 20, EPA aimed to provide industry with flexible compliance options by revising March 2011 regulations that were published under a tight court-ordered deadline (54 DEN A-1, 3/21/11).

Of the three final rules EPA issued, the air toxics standards for major source boilers are projected to be the most expensive, costing industry as much as $1.6 billion per year. Air toxics standards for area source boilers are expected to cost $490 million annually, and related performance standards for solid waste incinerators will cost up to $275 million per year.

Since releasing the regulations in 2011, the agency said it has reviewed new data that gave it a better understanding of the industry. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signed the final rules Dec. 20, and the agency released the regulations to the public Dec. 21. They will be published in an upcoming issue of the Federal Register.

Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, called the boilers rule a “costly and crippling regulation.”

“Unfortunately, this regulation remains far from being realistic,” Timmons said in a statement Dec. 21. “An improved version of a bad regulation is still a bad regulation… . The onslaught of regulations from the EPA means manufacturers will continue to see rising energy prices and skyrocketing compliance costs, which translate into few opportunities for growth and even fewer jobs.”

EPA said the updated rules largely will maintain the benefits of the original 2011 standards. The agency expects the final rules to cut emissions of mercury, particulate matter, and other pollutants, preventing 8,100 premature deaths and 5,100 heart attacks.

Compliance Times Extended

The final rules provide industry with additional time to meet the air pollution standards.

Major source boilers will have to be in compliance by 2016, or three years after the final rule is published.

Area sources must comply by March 21, 2014, and incinerators must comply by 2018.

Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said in a statement Dec. 21 that industry has not made a convincing case that the compliance deadlines should be extended. But, he said, “it is time to move on, for the sake of the public's health and welfare, and proceed expeditiously with implementation.”

The standards that EPA finalized Dec. 20 were proposed in December 2011 (233 DEN A-13, 12/5/11).

The Energy Department said it will offer site-specific technical assistance and cost information to boilers burning coal or oil.

Three Rules Issued

EPA set separate standards for major source boilers and area source boilers. Major source boilers are larger than area source boilers and have the potential to emit more than 10 tons per year of a single air toxic or 25 tons per year of a combination of air toxics.

Major source boilers are found at industrial facilities such as refineries and chemical plants, while area source boilers can be found at universities, hospitals, and hotels.

Of the 1.5 million boilers in the United States, EPA said about 1.3 million burn natural gas or are sufficiently clean and do not need to install pollution controls. About 197,000 boilers will need to follow work practice standards, such as annual tune-ups, and 2,300 boilers will need to meet more stringent numeric emissions limits.

EPA issued a separate rule Dec. 20 revising performance standards for commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators, which burn solid waste. The agency said 106 incinerators must comply with the final rule.

The agency also revised the definition of nonhazardous secondary materials that are burned in boilers or incinerators (see related story).

Major Source Boilers

The new major source boiler standards are projected to have higher emissions reductions for some pollutants than the March 2011 standards but lower reductions for other pollutants.

For example, the 2012 standards are expected to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 571,000 tons per year, while the 2011 standards would have reduced the pollutant by 440,000 tons per year. And the 2012 standards will cut volatile organic compounds by 2,400 tons per year, compared with 7,000 tons per year under the 2011 rule.

“The boiler standard appears to have some material improvements compared to the 2011 rule,” John Walke, clean air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told BNA Dec. 21. “While some emissions limits are worse and some improve, the overall impact seems to be greater health benefits and reductions in the pollution that causes the most harm. That's welcome.”

For major source boilers, the final rule creates subcategories for light and heavy industrial liquids and a subcategory for coal fluidized bed units.

The rule also sets new emissions limits for particulate matter in each biomass subcategory, replaces numeric dioxin emission limits with work practice standards, and adds new emissions limits for carbon monoxide. The rule also allows alternative total selective metals emissions limits to regulate metallic air toxics, rather than using particulate matter as a surrogate.

The regulation adjusts particulate matter and carbon monoxide emission limits for boilers that are outside the continental United States.

And it adds alternative monitoring approaches to demonstrate continuous compliance with particulate limits.

Area Source Boilers

EPA will require only coal-fired area source boilers to meet emissions limits for mercury and carbon monoxide.

Small coal-fired boilers of less than 10 million British thermal units per hour of heat input, biomass boilers, and oil-fired boilers will have to meet the standards through work practices or management practices, not emissions limits.

Most area source boilers will be exempt from obtaining Clean Air Act Title V operating permits.

The rule establishes subcategories for seasonal-use boilers and limited-use boilers.

It also will require initial tuneups by March 21, 2014, and will require tuneups every five years instead of every two years for seasonal-use boilers, limited-use boilers, small oil-fired boilers, and boilers with oxygen trim systems.

The rule allows the combustion of low-sulfur oil by new boilers to be an alternative to meet the particulate matter emissions limit, and it allows continuous emissions monitoring to demonstrate compliance with the carbon monoxide limit.

The final rule will allow existing dual-fuel-fired boilers that switch fuels to be considered existing sources, and it will not require certain fuel sampling and performance testing after units demonstrate initial compliance.

Solid Waste Incinerators

The solid waste incinerator final rule revises new source performance standards and emissions guidelines.

The rule adjusts emissions limits for dioxins and mercury. It adjusts monitoring provisions by removing oxygen correction requirements for carbon monoxide emissions limits during periods of startup and shutdown, and it requires continuous parametric monitoring systems for particulate matter for waste-burning kilns and large energy recovery units.

To comply with the final rule, incinerators will have to either install controls to meet emissions limits or use alternative waste disposal options, such as putting waste into landfills.


The final rules are available at http://www.epa.gov/airquality/combustion/actions.html.

Request Environment & Energy Report