House Votes to Delay “Boiler MACT”

The House voted late Thursday night to delay implementation of the “Boiler MACT” rule, national emission standards currently being rolled out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an effort to curb emissions from industrial boilers and process heaters.

This regulation imposes stringent emission limits for eleven categories of boilers used in manufacturing, processing, mining, refining, and other industries, as well as commercial boilers used in malls, apartments, restaurants, and hotels. Boilers burn fuels, such as natural gas, coal, biomass, and fossil fuels to produce steam, which is then used to produce electricity or heat.

The EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 (H.R. 2250) was approved by a vote of 275-142, with 41 Democrats giving their support. The bill would postpone implementation of a new, less stringent standard for at least 15 months and would give manufacturers and others five years to comply instead of three year compliance in the current rule.

EPA’s methods of promulgating boiler rules are costly, widely unachievable, and highly contentious. Under the rule, the majority of coal-fired boilers will need to be retrofitted with new and costly emissions curbing technologies. With EPA’s cost estimates of $9.5 billion up front and annual compliance costs of $3.2 billion, Boiler MACT is one of the most expensive EPA regulations in the Agency’s queue.

There are many problems with the rules, but here are just a few:

  1. the use of pollutant-by-pollutant standard setting instead of source-by-source;
  2. the decision to not apply health-based emission limits for certain pollutants;
  3. and the reclassification of many materials which will place them under stricter incinerator standards.

Without EPA’s willingness to readdress these issues, Congress is justified in intervening to create a better rule that protects the public and the environment, without being overly burdensome and unachievable by industry.