UPDATE 1-US proposes less costly pollution rule on boilers

Fri Dec 2, 2011 3:34pm EST

Related Topics

* EPA: rules to cost industry $2.3 bln/yr, not $3.8 bln

* Lets companies fine tune existing boilers

(Adds reaction from boiler owner group, paragraphs 13, 14)

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. environmental regulator said on Friday it slashed the cost of proposed pollution rules on industrial boilers by $1.5 billion year by allowing some plants to fine tune existing equipment or burn cleaner fuels.

The Environmental Protection Agency, under pressure from Republicans and industrial groups who accuse it of pushing for clean air rules that will cost companies with billions of dollars, has been looking for ways to ease costs and increase flexibility. For a factbox see [ID:nN1E7AT1UN]

The EPA on Friday proposed rules it says are more flexible than ones the agency introduced in 2010. The rules allow some plants to do maintenance on equipment, avoiding costs from adding new controls or replacing boilers.

More than 99 percent of the country's boilers, from heavy industry to small businesses and universities, are either clean enough and not subject to the new rules, or will only need to undergo tune ups and maintenance to comply.

The agency said health benefits from reduced pollution would be maintained.

"Gathering the latest and best technical information and real-world data has helped us find ... the sweet spot that's affordable, practical regulations that provide the vital and long overdue health benefits Americans demand and deserve," Gina McCarthy, the EPA assistant administrator for air, told reporters in a teleconference.

The EPA said the rules would cost industry about $2.3 billion a year, not the $3.8 billion in a previous proposal made last year.

The boiler rule would set limits on mercury and other toxic emissions on about 5,500 boilers at refineries, chemical plants, and heavy industry plants, the EPA said.

About 196,000 boilers would need to do annual tune ups and take other steps to minimize toxic emissions.

The agency estimates that for every dollar spent to cut the pollutants, the public will save some $12 to $30 in health costs.

Babcock and Wilcox Co (BWC.N) and other boiler makers could benefit from the rules, while some big chemical and heavy industry companies could see extra costs.

Boilers burn fuel including coal, fuel oil and biomass to produce steam to make electricity.

Both industrial and health groups cautiously welcomed the proposal of the long-delayed rules.

"At first glance, it looks like EPA made some adjustments to the rules that will improve the ability of sources to comply," said Robert Bessette, the president of the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners. His group had said last year's more costly proposal would have forced companies to shut or relocate plants.

A health group was also optimistic. "This is an important step forward by the EPA," the American Lung Association said.

It encouraged the agency to "uphold its responsibility as required by the Clean Air Act" to prevent cancer, heart attacks, and other health problems resulting from particulates and other pollution from boilers and incinerators.

The EPA will hold a 60-day comment period on the rules and expects to finalize them by spring 2012.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio and Bob Burgdorfer)

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Comments (1)
HemiHead66 wrote:
Looks like Obama folded again. This stuff here are what the GOP call job bills. They’ve got bills for pesticides in our waterways. Treating toxic coal waste as household garbage to be dumped anywhere. Kill what’s left of the safe water act. Let Portland cement spew toxic chemicals. Yeah, these are job bills alright. More like pad your friends pocket bills at the expense of the public. Just like Cheney exempt those gas fracking idiots from the safe water act, now they’re poisoning aquifers, rivers are streams all across the countrry. Obama has folded on 99% of the stuff he campaigned on. Even his rule of law crapp.

Dec 02, 2011 9:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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