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EPA Boiler MACT Compliance Update: Sierra Club Petition Complications

Boiler MACT compliance just got harder. Image credit: Elsie esq.One of the biggest stories coming out of the industrial sector for 2011 was the backlash against the EPA Boiler MACT regulations - a series of measures proposed by the EPA to reduce toxic air emissions generated by boilers and waste incinerators across the U.S.

These regulations came under intense scrutiny, as industry advocates claimed that the EPA’s methodology for determining new emission limits and work practices were too generic and assumed that all types of boilers would function in the same way.

Back On Topic...Again

In response to these criticisms, the boiler MACT regulations have undergone not just one, but two thorough re-evaluations.

The first in March 2011 and another as recently as December 2011. Both times the EPA has been more specific about what types of boilers would be affected and making the regulations more granular to reflect the real-world diversity of boilers.

Essentially, boiler manufacturers, operators, and the Environmental Protection Agency have been working gradually towards a set of proposed Boiler MACT rules that are both achievable and environmentally effective.

In reaction to the negative feedback it received, the EPA issued an official reconsideration period after the March proposal that delayed the effective compliance date of the new Boiler MACT rules.

Relief Short Lived?

In general, this stay was met with a sigh of relief, but it also created some uncertainty for many boiler operators. When and how would they have to comply?

However, this reconsideration period was in violation of the mandate of the Clean Air Act (CAA), which required the EPA to develop the updated Boiler MACT regulations.

The Sierra Club successfully petitioned the U.S. District Court to vacate the EPA’s stay of reconsideration and the court agreed the EPA had not taken the necessary steps to justify the stay.

As a result, the court ruled that original deadlines outlined by the March 2011 proposed Boiler MACT ruling were still in effect.

The Result

For boiler operators, this means that the deadline for compliance just got that much shorter. Fortunately, there is still a few years before non-administrative (i.e. emission limits) requirements come into effect. However, certain administrative tasks, like compliance notifications, will still technically be needed as early as March 2012.

The EPA has also been thrown for a loop, since it now has to manage two sets of regulations: the March 2011 proposal that was met with criticism, and the December regulations that were considerably different.

For the time being, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has issued a letter that seems to promise that the EPA will take use discretion in regards to compliance enforcement, and will be lenient in granting individual compliance deadlines. There is no guarantee, however, that this condensed compliance deadline will not have an economic impact on certain facilities.

For the time being, there are no clear answers when it comes to Boiler MACT compliance, as the regulations are still under revision, despite being in effect.

You can expect that some of the current regulations will be modified, which makes it difficult to know exactly what your compliance expectations are.

The best course of action, for the moment, is to be carefully monitoring the EPA’s progress and your own boilers. A well-maintained and managed boiler will be the best defense against failing to comply with the new EPA Boiler MACT rule.  

If you’re concerned about your Boiler MACT compliance, download our free eBook A Guide to Calculating Your Boiler Emissions to start learning the most efficient ways to manage and report the air emissions from your boiler

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This post was written by Alex Chamberlain

Alex Chamberlain is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.

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