Coming Soon to an Industrial Boiler Near You: Franken-MACT

EPA held a public hearing this week on its proposed MACT standards for industrial boilers. The issue may not be as sexy as climate change, but it’s an important rule and not just for those operating industrial boilers. For example, the cement industry has burned 50 million tires – including steel belts – according to its own data. EPA wants to classify such tires as a solid waste, rather than a fuel, which would subject cement kilns to incinerators standards. This has the Rubber Manufacturers Association up in arms. (Query: Does the Michelin Man have arms?)

Industry representatives say that the standards simply can’t be met, arguing that EPA cherry-picked the best performance for different air contaminants across a range of facilities, but ignored data showing that no facilities can actually meet all of the standards. According to the Daily Environment Report, Matthew Todd of the American Petroleum Institute described the proposal as “Franken-MACT.”

I suspect that EPA is going to be very skeptical of these claims. Rightly or wrongly, EPA’s view is that industry tends to cry wolf regarding the feasibility of complying with new regulatory standards. In any case, EPA also tends to think of technology-forcing as part of its mission. Time will tell on this one, regarding both EPA’s willingness to meet industry at least part way and industry’s ability to comply with the standards.

The tire issue, which is merely one example, also calls to mind EPA’s current debate regarding regulation of coal combustion residuals. How does EPA balance what it regards as fidelity to statutory requirements with the need to encourage beneficial and economic reuse of what would otherwise be waste materials? At this point, EPA’s thumb appears to be on the regulatory side of the scale, rather than the reuse side. Not surprising, but not necessarily encouraging.


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