EPA Overhauls Industrial Boiler Regulation, Lowering Cost to Companies
Washington (AP) - Faced with stiff opposition in Congress and a court-ordered deadline, the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday will make it much cheaper for companies to reduce toxic air pollution from industrial boilers and incinerators.
In a vastly overhauled regulation obtained by The Associated Press in advance of its release, the EPA says it has found ways to control pollution at more than 200,000 industrial boilers, heaters and incinerators nationwide at 50 percent less cost to the companies and institutions. That would save businesses $1.8 billion and still avert thousands of heart attacks and asthma cases a year.
These rules "put in place important public health safeguards...at costs substantially lower than we had estimated under our original proposal," said Gina McCarthy, EPA's top air pollution official, in a news release provided to the AP.
The deep discount for polluting industries will likely send a message to Congress that public health benefits can be achieved more economically, and that the Obama administration is serious about an executive order to review regulations that are onerous for business. The EPA, in its release, says the rules are in line with the review called for by Obama earlier this year.
Republicans and some Democrats have been extremely critical of EPA recently over the costs of a whole host of regulations, including the first-ever rules to control the gases blamed for global warming.
In a letter sent to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson on Monday, six senators expressed concern specifically about the boiler rule, saying that municipalities, universities, and federal facilities could be vulnerable to "excessive and expensive regulatory burdens."
Industrial boilers, which burn coal and other fuels to generate heat and electricity, are used by refineries, chemical plants, hospitals and even churches. They are also the second largest source of toxic mercury emissions in the United States after coal-fired power plants. Mercury is a metal that even at low levels can cause subtle but serious damage to the brain and senses.
Under the new rule, the bulk of industrial boilers at small facilities would not have to meet certain pollution standards. Instead, they would have to do biannual tune ups to reduce emissions. The roughly 13,800 large industrial boilers at refineries, chemical plants and other factories would be subjected to emissions standards requiring them to install technologies to reduce pollution. Facilities already in operation also would not have to comply with the regulation for three years.