“Even though they are softer than earlier regulatory attempts on these, they should require pretty decent controls without big job losses,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental advocacy group.
Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change, met with industry officials opposed to the boiler rule and urged the EPA to forge a compromise, according to several individuals familiar with the meeting.
The EPA will also finalize a definition of solid waste along with the rules that would permit the burning of tires, railroad ties and plastic bottles, which boiler operators had sought so they were not regulated the same way as incinerators.
“They will be burning waste without controlling pollution,” Pew said.
Harman said that on average, two-thirds of the energy her members use for production comes from burning wood biomass. She added these facilities have to comply with federal air rules regulating other air pollutants beyond mercury and soot. “To say these emissions are just not being regulated is just not true.”
Both sides agree the rules have taken too long to complete: The cement regulations were supposed to take effect by 1997, and the boiler rules by 2000.
The Clinton administration proposed a cement rule in 1998, but it was thrown out in court for failing to regulate mercury and other toxic pollutants; a federal court threw out the 2004 boiler rule finalized under President George W. Bush on the grounds it should have imposed stricter rules on how boilers burned solid waste.
“EPA has said it is trying to find a middle ground on this regulation, advancing environmental and public health protections without unduly burdening industry and hindering the economic recovery,” said Richard Gold, who heads Holland & Knight’s public policy and regulation group and represents some of the manufacturers affected by the boiler rule.
“If the agency can strike that balance, it could be a first step toward a more collaborative relationship among EPA and its industry and environmental groups in Obama’s second term.”