Congress Should Reject EPA's Boiler MACT Regs

By:  Ann Shibler
Congress Should Reject EPA's Boiler MACT Regs

Rep. Griffith's bill would delay EPA's Boiler MACT Regs.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s onerous regulations are the bane of many economically important industries such as lumber, oil, energy, manufacturing, paper, and even agriculture. With the current anti-regulatory political climate, an opportunity exists to address the unaccountable EPA’s issuance of rules known as Boiler MACT. Although the EPA itself had already temporarily postponed the implementation of these rules back in May, Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) introduced in June H.R. 2250, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, that has received support from 123 cosponsors for a proposal that would make null and void the Boiler MACT rules, as they currently are detailed. A companion bill, S. 1392, was introduced in the Senate on July 20 and already has 29 cosponsors.

In laymen’s terms, the Boiler MACT (maximum achievable control technology) rules would set emission standards -- mercury, dioxin, hydrogen chloride, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter -- emanating from all incinerators and boilers used mostly in large institutions like colleges, hospitals, churches, corporate farms, municipal buildings, manufacturing plants and waste management systems. The EPA claims the authority to regulate this falls under the Clean Air Act.

Critics point out that the formulas used by the EPA are faulty because they are based on “best performing” emission levels for each pollutant, meaning a plant could pass on one pollutant and fail completely on another. Another area of concern is the way the EPA reached its “health-based standard,” as it treated all emissions at any level of exposure as causing health concerns. Then there’s the “energy assessment” that the EPA insists existing facilities must undergo in order to reveal areas of conservation, citing once again the supposed authority under the Clean Air Act. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has said that in the case of Boiler MACT, the EPA has moved forward with standards that are “completely divorced from technological realities.”

The typical government-styled complexity of the 276-page regulations for various types of boilers run by an assortment of fuels was pegged by the EPA as costing in direct capital, $9.5 billion.  However, the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners differed with a much higher figure of $20 billion. Either way, the costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of much higher prices. At a time when the economy is more than struggling, and job security very precarious -- the Commerce Department predicted a loss of 40,000 jobs due to Boiler MACT -- so the impact of such rules would be economically destructive. 

Congress definitely needs to be proactive in the case of the EPA’s overly-stringent regulation of boilers and incinerators.  Unfortunately H.R. 2250 and S. 1392 seem to be fine in theory, but are lacking in any lasting bite because as it now stands they would give the EPA and lawmakers more time to review and resubmit regulations for the boilers and incinerators instead of rejecting this entire EPA regulatory scheme that is so damaging to the economy and jobs.

Tell your Representative and Senators that while it’s a good idea to slow down the EPA under H.R. 2250 and S. 1392, it would be even better to eliminate many of the heavy-handed mandates of the EPA by reversing the EPA’s usurpations of the Clean Air Act that Congress never intended. As Sen. Inhofe so expertly understands, “Congress didn’t give EPA the authority to set mandates that can’t be achieved or pursue a regulatory agenda that hurts the very people it’s supposedly trying to protect.” Adding, “The Clean Air Act needs to be updated to undo years of bureaucratic overreach and messy court rulings. It needs to be updated ... to stop politicians from using it to pursue a reckless political agenda that hurts working families.”

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