The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced finalized changes to Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators. The agency says the changes have been designed to achieve extensive public health protections by slashing toxic air pollution, including mercury and particle pollution while at the same time addressing feedback provided by industry and labor groups. As a result of the changes, 99 percent of the approximately 1.5 million boilers in the U.S. are not covered by or can meet the new standards by conducting periodic maintenance or regular tune-ups, according to the EPA.
The final adjustments to the standards are based on what the EPA calls 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, including significant dialogue and meetings with public health groups, industry and the public, the final rule dramatically cuts the cost of implementation by individual boilers that EPA proposed in 2010," the EPA states in a Dec. 21, 2012, news release. "At the same time, these rules will continue to deliver significant public health benefits. EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to reduce these pollutants, the public will see $13 to $29 in health benefits, including fewer instances of asthma, heart attacks as well as premature deaths."
The rules set numerical emission limits for less than 1 percent of boilers—those that emit the majority of pollution from this sector, according to the EPA. For these "high-emitting" boilers and incinerators, typically operating at refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities, EPA is establishing what it calls more targeted emissions limits to "protect public health and provide industry with practical, cost-effective options to meet the standards."
EPA has also finalized revisions to the Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials (NHSM) Rule designed to provide clarity on what types of secondary materials are considered nonwaste fuels and provide greater flexibility in rule implementation. This final rule classifies a number of secondary materials as categorical nonwastes when used as a fuel and allows for operators to request that EPA identify specific materials through rulemaking as a categorical nonwaste fuel.
According to the EPA, implementing these standards will avoid up to 8,100 premature deaths, prevent 5,100 heart attacks and avert 52,000 asthma attacks per year in 2015.
In a separate EPA action in late December 2012, to meet a court deadline, the agency issued final amendments to the 2010 clean air standards for the cement manufacturing industry. The final amendments maintain the significant emission reductions from the 2010 standards, "while providing industry additional time to implement the revised rules," according to the EPA.