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Regulations harming more than just the coal industry
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EPA Regulations harming more than just the coal industry

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EPA Regulations are hurting more than just the coal industryWe have discussed the impact of well-intentioned, but poorly planned and short-sighted legislation and regulations on the coal and energy generation industries in the Issues section of this site. These issues have also been covered in several posts on the Coalblog. While it remains essential to produce affordable electricity in an efficient and clean manner, environmental regulations must be drafted in a manner that also recognizes the need for a sustainable and thriving economy and jobs. Regulations that "overshoot the mark” by "sacrificing jobs” in the pursuit of environmental purity, rather than protecting "both jobs and the environment” do far more long-term harm. In the rush to pass more and more regulation, it is often thought that more regulation will inevitably lead to better results. However, the reality is that unbalanced, or poorly planned regulation often has regressive and destructive impacts - that type of regulation often ends up hurting the very people it was intended to protect.

While there is plenty of debate about what, exactly, federal regulation should try to accomplish, most would agree that regulation should not make society’s most vulnerable individuals less safe. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happens sometimes.

Low-income households benefit the most when they act to reduce their exposure to the greatest risks they face, such as relatively common events and activities that cause illness, injury, and death, many of which can be traced to living in unsafe neighborhoods. In contrast, high-income households generally focus more on small risks—for example, tiny environmental risks that are far less likely to occur and generally affect fewer people at the expo- sure levels regulations address.

Sadly, the impacts of over-reaching EPA regulations are not limited to coal; they are also having serious negative impacts on American manufacturing, as well as the chemical, cement, metal and steel, forest and paper, refining, and biomass sectors. In fact, the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners (CIBO) states in its recently released report, "The Economic Impact of Proposed EPA Boiler/Process Heater MACT Rule on Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boiler and Process Heater Operators,” that,

... (for) every $1B spent on upgrade and compliance costs will put 16,000 jobs at risk and reduce US GDP by as much as $1.2B.

This study, prepared by IHS Global Insight, forecasts that 338,000 jobs at regulated facilities would be at risk if this new boiler MACT rule is passed as written.

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EPA MACT Boiler Rules
Recently proposed EPA rules will have far-reaching impacts on the permitting, construction and use of industrial boilers. Rules released in late April this year would apply maximum achievable control technology (MACT) limitations, on a pollutant-by-pollutant basis, to reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) from industrial, commercial, and institutional boilers.

The rules will impose strict emissions limits on five hazardous air pollutants (HAPs),

  • Mercury (Hg)
  • Hydrogen Chloride (HCl)
  • Particulate Matter (PM)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO), and
  • Dioxins/Furans

An August 2010 report on the impacts of the new EPA rules, prepared by the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners (CIBO) indicates that sources (i.e. boilers or heaters) greater than (or equal to) 10MMBtu/hr will be required to meet emission limits for the five HAPs. Those producing 100 MMBtu/hr and greater will be forced to install CO CEMs (continuous emissions monitors). Those sources fueled with solid or residual fuels and producing 250 MMBtu/hr and greater will be forced to install PM CEMs.

Other sources describe how the rules will impacts on biomass boilers emitting 10 or more tons per year of any single air toxic or 25 tons per year or more of any combination of HAPs.” The rule is expected to impact more than 10,000 existing fossil- and biomass-fueled boilers as well as any new boilers built after the rule is put into effect. Industry representatives are calling the new rule "uneconomic and unachievable.” They are also stating that existing biomass facilities will be unable to comply and proposed facilities are now being shelved until the rulemaking process is completed.

Representatives of the Biomass Power Association have been quoted as saying that 100 percent of biomass boilers in the U.S. would be required to implement expensive new emissions control technologies. Total bills for these updates are forecast to cost as much as $7 billion. Furthermore, the shuttering of, or delays in building new, biomass-fueled plants would entail that biomass wastes currently being used to produce electric power would be burned in open fires or diverted to landfills, leading to uncontrolled particulate emissions and methane releases.

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Airborne SO2 and NOX NAAQS

The EPA has also begun a review of the secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for airborne SO2 — currently at 53 parts per billion averaged over a year — and NOX — currently 500 parts per billion averaged over three hours — are "not strict enough to prevent damage to the environment” and that new, even more strict rules may be forthcoming.

The EPA report suggests that the current limits on emissions of SO2 and NOX limits should revisited, made stricter, and based on how they affect bodies of water. EPA plans are apparently to release proposed rules in July 2011.

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Coal Ash
Coal combustion Products (CCPs) represent a valuable resource to our economy and environment. The beneficial reuse of CCPs annually adds between $6.4 and $11.4 billion in economic benefits to our economy. On the environmental front, recycling of CCPs reduced U.S. GHG emissions by 11 million tons, reduced energy consumption by 162 trillion BTUs, and reduced water consumption by 32 billion gallons in 2007. Government regulators and scientists have stated repeatedly that regulation of coal ash as "toxic" or "hazardous" under Subtitle C of RCRA is "unwarranted.” In fact, a 2010 EPA report found that the use of CCPs as fill and contouring material in the construction of the Battlefield Golf Club in Chesapeake, VA had no impact on adjacent residential wells and ground water. The report also noted that no adverse health effects are expected from exposure to surface water or sediments on the site and the site was not added to the EPAs national priority list of sites where hazardous materials could impact health or the environment.

To learn more about the beneficial reuse of CCPs, you can follow this link to our Coal Ash – Coal Combustion Products (CCPs) Issues page.

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