EPA Overhauls Boiler Rules After Complaints About Cost

The Obama administration said it issued pollution rules for industrial boilers that are 50 percent less expensive than regulations proposed last year that drew industry opposition.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s final rules for boilers and incinerators will provide health benefits comparable to the previous standards while cutting costs, EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy said today on a conference call with reporters.

The EPA had estimated the earlier rules would cost $9.5 billion, while the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners set the cost at $20 billion and as many as 300,000 lost jobs. The agency’s revamping of the rules followed President Barack Obama’s pledge to review regulations that companies call excessive and a court order to act by this week.

“We’ve done a great job,” and the agency is “pretty comfortable” with the revised rules, McCarthy said.

The regulations remain too costly to business, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

The rules will have an “immediate, negative impact on manufacturers’ bottom lines at a time when they are trying to rebound economically and create jobs,” Aric Newhouse, senior vice president for policy and government relations for the Washington-based trade association, said in a statement.

The requirements to cut air pollutants such as mercury and dioxin would set emission limits for boilers used in paper pulp mills, refineries and chemical and manufacturing plants. Existing boilers that exceeded the limits would have to be upgraded or replaced.

Federal Judge

The administration lost a bid last month to postpone the rules by 15 months when a federal judge ordered action within 30 days. The EPA will reconsider parts of the rules issued today, enabling companies to give feedback to the agency, according to McCarthy.

The regulations aimed at cutting toxic air emissions such as mercury and soot will create 2,200 new jobs, not including making or installing pollution controls, according to McCarthy. The reduced emissions will prevent 2,600 to 6,600 premature deaths, the EPA said today in a statement.

For every dollar spent to cut pollutants, the public will get $10 to $24 in health benefits, according to the agency.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praised the EPA for revising the rule to ease requirements for biomass alternative-fuel producers.

The EPA is “retaining important energy choices such as biomass that provide heat and power to rural hospitals and schools,” Vilsack said in a statement.

Oil Industry

The American Petroleum Institute, the biggest U.S. lobbying group for the oil and gas industry and a critic of the rules proposed last year, said it welcomed the EPA’s efforts to change the regulations.

“API is committed to work with the agency during its reconsideration period to ensure that the final rule protects the environment while allowing businesses to create jobs and get Americans back to work,” Howard Feldman, director of science and regulatory policy at the Washington-based group, said in a statement today before release of the rules.

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