It appears as if owners of industrial boilers, heaters, and solid waste incinerators may get a reprieve from new, more stringent emissions rules, which were  expected to be put into effect in January.

On Dec. 7, the EPA announced that it had filed a motion in the federal District Court for the District of Columbia. The motion is seeking an extension in the current court-ordered schedule for issuing rules that would reduce harmful air emissions from large and small boilers and solid waste incinerators. The additional time is needed, the agency said, to re-propose the rules based on a full assessment of information received since the rules were proposed.

"After receiving additional data through the extensive public comment period, EPA is requesting more time to develop these important rules," said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. "We want to ensure these rules are practical to implement and protect all Americans from dangerous pollutants such as mercury and soot, which affect kids’ development, aggravate asthma and cause heart attacks."

In order to meet a court order requiring the EPA to issue final rules in January 2011, the agency proposed standards in April 2010. Though the EPA requested and received some information from industry before the proposal, the comments it received following the proposal shed new light on a number of key areas, the agency’s press release explained, including the scope and coverage of the rules and the way to categorize the various boiler-types. Industry groups and others offered this information during the public comment period after the EPA proposed the rule. After reviewing the data and the more than 4,800 public comments, the agency believes it is appropriate to issue a revised proposal that reflects the new data and allows for additional public comment. This approach is essential to meeting the agency’s legal obligations under the Clean Air Act and, as a result, provides the surest path to protecting human health and the environment.

The EPA has estimated that there are more than 200,000 boilers operating in industrial facilities, commercial buildings, hotels, and universities located in highly populated areas and communities across the country. It has estimated that for every $5 spent on reducing these pollutants, the public will see $12 in health and other benefits.

The EPA is under a current court order to issue final rules on January 16, 2011 and is seeking in its motion to the court to extend the schedule to finalize the rules by April 2012.

In a statement responding to the announcement, the National Association of Manufacturers said, "We welcome the EPA’s decision to delay its final rules on both the Boiler MACT and ozone NAAQS. Clearly, the Agency has heard the calls from manufacturers to thoroughly analyze the achievability and economic impact of these expensive and complex proposals."

Sources: EPA, National Association of Manufacturers