EPA proposes tighter emissions standards for industrial boilers after court order

EPA proposes tighter emissions standards for industrial boilers after court order
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing some tighter emissions limits for industrial boilers, a piece of equipment used to heat water or produce steam for industrial purposes, which emit various types of pollution.

The Thursday proposal follows two court decisions, one in 2016 and one in 2018, compelling the agency to take additional actions on its boiler standards. 

In the new proposal, the agency aims to change the maximum amount of certain pollutants like carbon monoxide and soot that specific subcategories of boilers are allowed to emit. In 28 cases, the proposed changes would be more stringent and in six cases it would be less stringent.

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“These amendments will reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants,” said EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: Major oil companies oppose Trump admin's methane rollback | Union files unfair labor practice charge against EPA Major oil companies oppose EPA methane rollback Union files unfair labor practice charge against EPA MORE in a statement. “This underscores the Trump Administration’s commitment to reducing air pollution, while providing needed clarity to the regulated community.” 

The court also required the EPA to explain why it decided to set a maximum carbon monoxide threshold as a stand-in for hazardous air pollutant (HAP) thresholds instead of setting direct limits for the individual HAPs themselves.

The agency explained this in its proposal, saying that carbon monoxide is a “good indicator of incomplete combustion and organic HAPs are products of incomplete combustion. 

However, environmentalists have criticized this assertion, saying that the agency should directly regulate these HAPs themselves instead of using carbon monoxide as a catch-all indicator.

“The idea that limiting carbon monoxide is going to control the hazardous air pollutants doesn’t really make any sense because some of them can be very high even if carbon monoxide is low. So keeping carbon monoxide low doesn’t keep all of these organic chemicals low,” said Earthjustice attorney James Pew.

Under the proposal, regulated facilities would have up to three years from the date the rule becomes effective to comply. 

The agency estimates that about 444 boilers are subject to the standards and that 33 would need to take additional actions to comply with them.