BPA outlines MACT negatives in submitted comment

By Lisa Gibson
Posted August 25, 2010, at 3:27 p.m. CST

If approved as is, the U.S. EPA's proposed Maximum Achievable Control Technology rules would drastically and unfairly increase emissions standards for biomass facilities across the country and could cause many plants to shut down, according to Bob Cleaves, CEO and president of the Biomass Power Association.

The comment period on the proposed rules ended last week and the agency will review them and should have final rules by Dec. 16, according to an EPA spokeswoman. Cleaves held a media conference call Aug. 25 to discuss the negative aspects of the proposed change to the 2004 rule, which would classify many boilers currently considered multifuel boilers as incinerators, subjecting them to limits for five pollutants: mercury, hydrogen chloride, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and dioxin. That change in classification would mean expensive alterations at virtually all the operating biomass power plants, Cleaves said. "What EPA is doing could potentially impact us greatly," he said.

The proposal creates an "über-boiler," Cleaves said, borrowing the best emissions standards from different kinds of boilers and rolling them together to create a "super boiler." "What we believe the EPA has done for each of these different emission parameters, [is] they have kind of taken the best of the best," he said. "We as an industry are quite concerned that no such boiler can achieve all of the emissions standards that EPA is proposing in their rules." Even if any boiler could achieve all the standards, it would cost the country billions to bring them all into compliance across all solid fuel combustion industries. "This would be a significant regulatory burden," Cleaves said. "We as an industry don't believe the country should be imposing additional regulatory burdens on matters that don't present threats to the public health or environment."

Cleaves submitted a lengthy comment to the EPA on the BPA's behalf. It addresses the Boiler MACT, the large source area MACT, and the Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incinerators (CISWI) MACT. As far as CISWI, Cleaves argued that biomass power plants do not combust materials considered waste, as they are byproducts of other industries, and shouldn't have to comply. He argued that manganese and hydrogen chloride should not be regulated, as they do not pose a health threat.

"We think that the right hand doesn't really know what the left hand is doing," Cleaves said. Recently, numerous federal initiatives have expressed support for biomass, but it's not reflected in the proposed MACT rules. "We all know that in order for the nation to meet its renewable energy standards, the biomass industry not only has to continue to thrive in its current form, but it has to grow significantly," Cleaves said. "We are very concerned that the rules EPA has proposed will hamper that growth and place in jeopardy the existing capacity of the industry to provide clean, renewable energy."

Regulating for regulating's sake is undesirable in a country double dipping into a recession and with a double-digit unemployment rate, he added. The BPA is asking the EPA to exercise flexibility in its rules where there is not a public health threat; to take advantage of its ability to subcategorize units and provide facilities with the opportunity to meet the standards at reasonable costs; and to set emissions standards based on what real world best performing units actually can achieve.

"From a broader policy perspective, we want EPA to be aware of the significant role biomass plays and in the final rule that's adopted by the EPA, we want the agency to be sensitive to the effects of that rule on both existing and growth potential of the industry to make sure that with these tough economic times, we create rules that deliver meaningful public health and environmental protection without causing economic dislocation and disruption," Cleaves said.