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