The Environmental Protection Agency and Boiler MACT Regulation

EPA boiler rules should reflect the real world

"Boiler MACT" is the name given to national emission standards being promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to curb emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) from industrial boilers and process heaters.

The regulation imposes standards and emission limits for more than 200,000 boilers used in manufacturing, processing, mining, refining and other industries, as well as commercial boilers used in malls, apartments, restaurants and hotels. It does not apply to major commercial electricity generators, which are subject to different rules. Boilers burn fuels, such as natural gas, coal, biomass and oil, to produce heat, which is then either used directly in industrial processes or used to produce steam, which drives turbines to produce electricity.

Under Boiler MACT, facilities are divided into two categories: “major sources” and “area sources.” Major sources are facilities that emit 10 tons per year (tpy) or more of any single Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) or 25 tpy or more of any combination of HAPs; area sources are facilities that emit less than this. According to EPA, there are approximately 13,840 major source and 187,000 area source boilers in the U.S.

Boiler MACT is an example of a regulation that could be amended in simple, appropriate ways to adhere to the spirit of President Obama’s Executive Order 13563. Instead of moving forward with the current proposed rule, EPA should address the issues raised in this brief, including by:

  • Basing MACT floor policy decisions on the performance of actual existing boilers, not the performance of a hypothetical boiler that comprises restrictions for individual pollutants currently only achieved in isolation.
  • Setting health-based standards per Section 112(d) (4) of the CAA for acid gases that are prevalent and have historically been regulated according to such standards.
  • Only reclassifying fuels as “solid waste” (with all the associated additional burdens) if the EPA is able to prove that such a reclassification will result in substantial health benefits. Currently EPA is moving in the opposite direction, placing the burden of proof on industry to petition to remove substances that have historically been used as fuel.

Adam Peshek is Research Associate

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