EPA Revises Boiler MACT Rules

By Karen Koenig | Posted: 12/05/2011 12:12PM


WASHINGTON — Wood industry and biomass groups are cautiously lauding the Environmental Protection Agency’s revising of standards to reduce hazardous air pollutant emissions from existing and new boilers and commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators.

This boiler fire box at Elk Regional Health Center in St. Marys, PA burns woody biomass. The boiler runs year round providing heat, hot water and sterilization processes. Biomass quality is extremely important since varying wood types and moisture levels burn differently, and thus need to be managed in both the supply and combustion chains. The regional hospital’s replacement boiler system installed by Advanced Recycling Equipment is totally automated, very efficient (about a 1% ash residue), and has incredibly clean emissions producing no visible smoke and with no need for electrostatic precipitators as usually found on a power plant. The hospital saved almost $94,000 in just the first six months of its operation, buying $90,000 worth of wood chips locally. -Andy Bater, BiommassConnections.com Revisions in the new rules, released Friday, reduce the compliance costs for maximum achievable control technology (MACT) on the equipment — a point of contention in the April 2010 standard. The new standards are approximately 50 percent less costly than in the original proposal, while still meeting the requirements laid out in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, according to the EPA. Also critical in the revision, particularly for wood products firms, is the change in the definition of Non-Hazardous Secondary Material (NHSM). In the new standard, resinated wood is now designated as “not a solid waste material when used as a fuel regardless of whether it remained within the control of the generator.”

The EPA said it will finalize the reconsideration in spring 2012, following 60 days for public comment.

“Our nation’s economy needs regulations that protect the environment while sustaining American manufacturing jobs,” said Donna Harman, president and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Assn. “EPA’s reconsideration is an important step toward writing a more reasonable set of regulations after being forced by the courts to finalize rules in March, which the Agency itself recognized as flawed.”

EPA's revised changes for boilers include additional subcategories, new emission limits and increased flexibility in compliance monitoring for meeting particle pollution and carbon monoxide limits. The agency has also revised emission limits on incinerators, including those for dioxin and mercury.   

In a statement, Randy Rawson, president and CEO of the American Boiler Manufacturers Assn. said, “There appears to be nothing in [the] EPA proposals that cannot be handled in a timely and cost-effective way by the types of existing, state-of-the-art, technologically-advanced and fuel-flexible products and equipment supplied by the U. S. boiler manufacturing industry, in combination with innovatively-engineered applications.

“EPA is to be commended in its efforts to listen and to be responsive to those affected by these rules – both the regulated entities and the equipment suppliers – and to leave the door open for even further modifications if technically warranted. The agency has apparently heard the concerns of those impacted by the original ICI Boiler MACT rules and has adjusted and re-adjusted their rules’ requirements in a way that few, if any, of the vast majority should have trouble cost-effectively meeting,” Rawson added.

“We are pleased that the EPA’s revised standards look to achieve major public health benefits while further adjusting the rules to meet real world boiler operating conditions,” said Joseph Seymour, executive director of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC).

“The new set of Boiler MACT and related rules set forth by the EPA are an important step toward a realistic and achievable boiler emissions mandate for the biomass industry. The changes indicate recognition by the EPA of the value of biomass, not only for the environment, but also for the economy. The new rules remove a number of provisions that, by the Agency’s own admission, were flawed,” said Bob Cleaves, Biomass Power Assn. president and CEO.

According to BPA, biomass power is a $1 billion industry, comprised of 80 facilities in 20 states.

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About the Author

Karen M. Koenig

Karen M. Koenig has more than 25 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As Editor-in-Chief of Woodworking Network magazine (formerly Wood & Wood Products), Karen’s primary responsibilities include spearheading the writing, editing and coordinating of the editorial content of the publication, along with the Red Book resource guide and the Red Book online source and supply directory (RedBookOnline.com). She is also a frequent contributor to other Woodworking Network online and print media. She can be reached at kkoenig@woodworkingnetwork.com or Google+.

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Florian Schach    
New York  |  December, 11, 2011 at 05:48 PM

A revision to the Boiler MACT rule almost seems counter-intuitive because of what it’s supposed to protect. However during these times, this may become a bit more common place. Regulations can sometimes be a little stricter than what is necessary (sometimes). Currently, Regulations such as Boiler MACT have the potential to hinder Economic growth. According to CIBO, the Boiler Mact provisions intend to protect(which indeed it will) but also could costs businesses somewhere in the neighborhood of 16,000 Jobs (http://eng.am/tuZtjR). No one should advocate for not protecting their workers, but we may have to ask ourselves in these times if certain provisions are absolutely necessary this instant.


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