A Proper Revision

Departments - Editor's Focus

March 19, 2013
Brian Taylor

Brian Taylor


A January 2013 rules revision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been welcomed by a number of industry trade groups as the right and reasonable way to proceed so the biomass energy industry can continue to be a competitor in the alternative energy sector.

For most of this decade, the EPA has been responding to lawsuits and lobbying efforts regarding its Boiler MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) and Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials (NHSM) rules. Of interest to many readers of this publication has been ensuring that the NHSM rules allow C&D scrap wood to meet the criteria for exemption from the rule.

When the EPA’s initial rules revisions were proposed in 2010, calling for considerable paperwork and burden of proof on boiler operators and their suppliers, several trade groups formed a loose coalition to gather information, compare notes, organize research efforts and meet with EPA rule makers to seek clarification.

Among those groups was the Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA), which notes that having C&D scrap wood exempt from the rule would be “relieving a huge potential regulatory and paperwork burden for C&D recyclers who make biomass and their boiler customers.”

When the 500 pages of rules revisions were released by the EPA in January 2013, the CMRA was glad to see this wording: “We would like to note two additional NHSMs—paper recycling residuals and construction and demolition wood processed pursuant to best practices that, based on information provided to the agency, we now believe are good candidates and expect to propose categorical listings in 40 CFR 241.4(a) in the near future for these two materials.”

CMRA Executive Director Bill Turley says his association and its members worked in tandem with the Biomass Power Association (BPA) to conduct chemical testing data on C&D wood fuel in many locations and to collate the results to show that contaminant levels in the material were within the acceptable range for EPA.

In its document, EPA refers to the work done by the two groups, saying, “The Agency has received additional information since the issuance of [the initial] rule on specific best management practices used by suppliers/processors of C&D wood. Such practices include processing to remove contaminants. EPA believes the information received to date would tend to support a listing of these materials as a categorical nonwaste fuel and expects to propose that listing in a subsequent rulemaking.”

As it often is, the EPA was in a difficult position, balancing the legitimate concerns of clean-air activists with the practicality of creating alternative energy and recycling standards that do more than leave landfilling as the most suitable option.

With this rules revision, the EPA has ideally done just that. The revised rules will target “high-emissions” refineries and chemical plants while not stifling a growing alternative energy and C&D recycling sector by imposing unattainable parts-per-million emissions standards.