Over 30 years of reporting on Congress, federal agencies and the White House for corporate America as well as national trade and professional associations.

EPA Publishes Final Industrial Boiler Rule

The Fabricator...February 2013

     Most metal fabricators won't be hit very hard by the EPA's final rule on air emissions from industrial boilers. The final rule, issued in December, gives affected sources three years to come into compliance with emissions limits on air pollutants such as mercury and lead. But while there are somewhere around 14,000 industrial boilers nationally, probably fewer than 1700 will face new emissions restrictions, and some of them will be able to meet those restrictions by adding scrubbers to old boilers. Boilers which run on fuel oil, coal or biomass are in the "affected" category; those which use natural gas face no new restrictions. All boilers will have to do  periodic "tune ups." But that is not a requirement anyone is terribly worried about.
    The final rule released on December 20, 2012 included a number of what the EPA described as concessions on provisions included in the proposed rule issued in March 2011. For example, the final rule allows facilities to use "alternative total selective metals emission limits" to regulate metallic air toxics instead of using a particulate matter (PM) as a surrogate, allowing more flexibility and decreasing compliance costs for units that emit low levels of HAP (hazardous air pollutant) metals. However, after the EPA took into account the changes it made in the final rule, it said the estimated annualized cost of the amended rule for the affected boilers would still be $1.19 billion. That was a decrease of $130 million, but to the extent metal fabricators have decades old boilers using one of the "bad" fuels, the capital costs could be heavy.
    Bob Bessette, the President of the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners (CIBO), which had been the lead group pressing the EPA for moderation in the final rule, says,  "EPA made some significant modifications to its previous rules.  These changes will greatly improve the ability of facilities to comply." But there appeared to be no easing of carbon monoxide and hydrochloric acid standards, which is what the Industrial Energy Consumers of America had asked for, in order to make it easier for coal-fired boilers to stay in operation. In fact, in the final rule, the EPA appeared to tighten HCL standards. The IECA had asked the EPA to replace numerical limits for CO and HCL with work standards. The agency did not do that. Paul Cicio, President of the IECA, did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment.