Seventeen industry groups, including the Biomass Power Association (BPA) and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, last week petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to put on hold rules for industrial boilers while the agency reconsiders them.

The groups urged an “immediate stay” of two so-called “Boiler MACT” rules: the “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Major Sources: Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters” and the “Standards of Performance for New Stationary Sources and Emission Guidelines for Existing Sources: Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incineration Units.”

The agency finalized the rules this February in response to a federal court order, mandating that operators of boilers and incinerators install “maximum achievable control technology” to reduce harmful emissions. But the EPA also said it would reconsider the rules because “certain issues of central relevance” arose after the period of public comment.

Without the stay, the rules will take effect 60 days after their March 21 issuance. The reconsideration period, however, could take as long as a year.

“Petitioners will suffer significant, irreparable harm unless a stay is granted,” the coalition wrote EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “EPA’s intent to reconsider significant, but yet to be fully decided or explained, portions of the rules, together with the expected multiplicity of third party reconsideration requests invited by the Agency, presents Petitioners with considerable uncertainty and risk as they attempt to determine how to comply with the rules.

“Absent a stay, facing a ticking compliance clock, Petitioners will be forced to make major investments in compliance measures that may ultimately be misdirected or rendered unnecessary by the outcome of the reconsideration process,” they said.

The group added that because the rules would require major equipment installations across a large number of existing facilities within a limited timeframe, they could not wait until the EPA had completed its reconsideration before making those purchases and moving forward with plans to comply with the stringent standards.

“Thousands of existing facilities will need to begin to make major compliance investments soon, in light of the pressing compliance deadlines, and will not be able to undo such investments if EPA ultimately changes the rules and standards following reconsideration,” the group said. “Furthermore, the rules will immediately and adversely impact new facilities and force companies to make crucial decisions regarding plant upgrades or shutdowns, all of which may be undone depending on the outcome of the reconsideration process.”

Another key reason the EPA should grant the stay is because the “defects of the final rules go far beyond” those the agency described in its February notice of reconsideration, the group said. Among these are “substantial uncertainty as to the applicability of the final rules (especially as to the fundamental question of what is a ‘fuel’ versus what is a ‘waste’), key elements of the final rules are not supported by the underlying data, and several of the emissions standards are so stringent that companies predict that no viable means of complying with them will be devised.”

These issues alone should compel the EPA to call a “‘time out’ so that the compliance clock is not ticking as the issues are resolved through the upcoming reconsideration proceeding,” the group said.

Members of the coalition included: American Forest & Paper Association, National Association of Manufacturers, American Chemistry Council, American Coke and Coal Chemicals Institute, American Home Furnishings Alliance, American Iron and Steel Institute, American Municipal Power Inc., American Petroleum Institute, American Wood Council, Biomass Power Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Corn Refiners Association, Council of Industrial Boiler Owners, Florida Sugar Industry (joined by sugarcane processors in Texas and Hawaii), National Oilseed Processors Association, Rubber Manufacturers Association, Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, and Treated Wood Council.

Sources: POWERnews, EPA, NAM