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EPA Publishes Rule for Industrial Boiler Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency published its final Boiler MACT rule on January 31st. The Boiler MACT (maximum available control technology) requires emission reductions for the most polluting industrial boilers and incinerators under the authority of the Clean Air Act – including those used for both industrial processes and for electricity generation. This is a major milestone for the regulation which was initially proposed in 2010 and has been significantly revised to address comments by a range of stakeholders – an earlier rule in 2005 was thrown out after a legal challenge. Publication in the Federal Register officially begins a three-year long compliance period; existing facilities subject to the Boiler MACT now have until January 31, 2016 to meet the requirements set out in the regulation (but may request an additional year).

The vast majority of the 1.5 million boilers in the United States are not covered by the standard, which seeks to address mercury, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and hydrogen chloride. The rule requires 13 percent of boilers in the U.S. to adjust “work practice standards,” including making tune-ups. A small number of the most polluting boilers and incinerators, about 0.4 percent of those in the U.S., will have to take more significant emission reduction actions to bring their facilities into compliance.

While compliance can be met using a variety of control technologies, low natural gas prices may make switching to natural gas more economical for many affected facilities. To the extent that operators opt for fuel switching as a compliance strategy, this presents an excellent opportunity to incorporate combined heat and power systems to cut energy and production costs while further lowering emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. The Department of Energy has recognized this opportunity and is providing capacity support though its Clean Energy Application Centers to help affected manufacturers understand their compliance options; a pilot assistance program in Ohio will now be rolled out nationwide.

Others can do more to take full advantage of the Boiler MACT compliance window. For example, state governments can support shifts to CHP in their states by ensuring that CHP facilities are given access to the electric grid in a way that recognizes the many benefits of the technology while addressing concerns raised by utilities and ratepayers. EPA can more fully recognize the emissions benefits of CHP toward existing and new regulatory requirements. CCAP looks forward to working with government, industry and NGO stakeholders to realize these opportunities.

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