The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hoping the third time is a charm for a proposal to revise Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators. The agency, on December 23, published another plan to significantly relax an earlier version finalized in March 2011 that would have required some 200,000 industrial boilers—including smaller“area source” units in places like commercial buildings, universities and hospitals—to utilize pollution control technologies to meet the stringent air emission standards.
The agency was required to publish the so-called “Boiler MACT” (maximum achievable control technology) requirements last March pursuant to the terms of a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club challenging the EPA’s April 2010 boiler standard.However, the agency announced in May of last year that it was staying the process indefinitely to consider input from industry and others who said that the rule’s stringent limits were unachievable.
Under this latest incarnation, EPA claims that only 5500 boilers will be subject to these strict emissions limits. Meanwhile, the remaining units will only be required to implement work practice standards to come into compliance, allowing most operators of the nation’s 187,000 smaller boilers to comply by conducting maintenance and tune-ups. For the approximately 14,000 “major source” boilers at refineries, chemical plants and industrial facilities, the EPA has proposed some pollutant-specific emissions limits but also replaces some numeric emissions limits for dioxins with work practice standards. The EPA claims these changes will maintain health benefits but will cut the cost of implementation by nearly 50% from the original 2010 proposed rule.
Despite modifications that EPA based on industry input, the proposals have not prevented the business community from supporting The EPA Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 2250) that that would delay the standards for 15 months and give companies at least five years to come into compliance.Although the measure sailed through the Republican-controlled House in October, the Senate has yet to act on the bill and the White House has threatened a veto.
The Boiler MACT standards present a mixed bag for the nonwoven fabrics industry. On one hand, more stringent rules could mean substantial new opportunities for nonwovens in filtration, but on the other, it could mean significant additional expenses for manufacturers required to comply with new standards.
Notwithstanding legislative threats, EPA has said it intends to finalize the rules by spring 2012.However, further muddying the waters, on January 9 the D.C. District Court struck down the EPA’s stay of the March 2011 boiler and incinerator rules in response to a challenge brought by the Sierra Club and other groups. Before the stay was implemented, these regulations were slated to go into effect on May 20, 2011, meaning it is now totally unclear what the compliance time frame will be while the agency figures things out.INDA will monitor and report on the EPA’s interpretation of the decision in the coming weeks. EPA is accepting public comments on the Dec. 23 proposal until Feb. 21. More information: www.gpo.gov.
Action on Bill Renewing R&D Tax Credit Unlikely in Early 2012
A bill extending a package of expired tax incentives, including the popular research and development credit, appears unlikely to move forward in early 2012, policy experts say.Although Congressional leaders from both parties have expressed a desire to see the “tax extenders” incentives which lapsed at the end of 2011 continued, the current political climate makes it unlikely it will happen anytime soon.
The most immediate hurdle is that the legislative leaders are now preoccupied with extending the two month payroll tax cut deal for a full year.Faced with a Feb. 29 deadline, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) are engaged in the payroll tax conference committee negotiations, to the exclusion of most other issues.
Although it has been suggested that the extenders could be rolled into the payroll tax cut talks, most expect Capitol Hill lawmakers to hold off on the measure until after the 2012 presidential election and then make the benefits retroactive to the beginning of the year. Of course, Congress is also supposed to address the expiring Bush tax cuts at the end of 2012 so this might have to take a number.
Still, given the important role that the R&D tax credit plays in the nonwoven fabrics industry, INDA is working with the National Association of
Manufacturers and numerous other industry groups to press lawmakers to complete action on the extenders package sooner rather than later. But, we wouldn’t suggest holding your breath—our distinguished colleagues on Capitol Hill haven’t earned those 13% approval ratings by doing nothing…oh wait, yes they have.
EPA Publishes Annual National Analysis of Toxics Release Inventory
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Jan. 5 published its annual analysis of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) detailing toxic chemicals released and waste management and pollution prevention activities throughout the country. The National Analysis for 2010 shows a 16% increase over 2009 in toxic chemicals released into the environment nationwide, with total air releases decreasing 6% and releases into surface water increasing 9% and into land increasing 28% since 2009.(The EPA attributes the water and land increases primarily to metal mining activities.)
The TRI contains information reported to the EPA and states by companies on their disposal or release of 660 potentially dangerous chemicals used by almost 21,000 facilities across a wide range of industries.Facilities must report their toxic chemical releases to EPA under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) by July 1 of each year. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also requires information on waste management activities related to TRI chemicals.
Separately, an EPA official recently told the Bureau of National Affairs that the agency has begun the process of evaluating whether any new industries should be required to report to the TRI. The agency is specifically looking at operations such as iron ore mining, phosphate mining, solid waste combustors and incinerators, large dry cleaners, petroleum bulk storage, and steam generation from coal or oil but could expand to include others as things move forward. The agency could release a proposal on an expanded TRI as early as 2013, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Environmental Information Malcolm Jackson told BNA but has no set timeline for a final rule.
The TRI and the National Analysis are available to the public through the EPA website at: www.epa.gov/tri.