Court sides with greens on EPA boiler rule

A federal appeals court Friday agreed with environmental groups and tossed out part of a contentious air pollution rule for boilers for an improper exemption within the regulation.

The lengthy, 162-page opinion issued by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejects numerous arguments from industry that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) package of boiler rules is too strict.

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A key piece of the decision found that the EPA was wrong to leave certain boiler units with low levels of emissions out of the subcategories it constructed for the rule.

The Clean Air Act, the judges wrong, “demands that source subcategories take the bitter with the sweet,” and requires “without ambiguity” that all relevant units be kept in a subcategory.

Judges sided with the green groups on a handful of other challenges in the lawsuit, though it is not blocking enforcement of those, instead allowing the agency to go back and fix the problems.

The boiler rule, dubbed boiler MACT for “maximum achievable control technology,” has been one of the more contentious air pollution rules of the Obama administration, and congressional Republicans have tried weakening it in various ways with no success.

The American Forest and Paper Association, whose member companies often use boilers to generate power at their facilities, said the court’s failure to accept any industry arguments was disappointing.

“We are disappointed that after years of back-and-forth the D.C. Circuit Court has ruled against reason in vacating certain key standards and remanding other portions of rules that, by most accounts, are reasonable and achievable despite the extensive technically sound information and test data provide to and relied upon by the EPA,” Donna Harman, the group’s president, said in a statement.