EPA to revise Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials rule

By Lisa Gibson | October 17, 2011

The U.S. EPA has announced it will propose revisions to its Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials rule, following a strong push from industries, including biomass, concerned with its current constraints.

The rule helps determine which set of Clean Air Act requirements a combustion unit will fall under and has taken heavy criticism. The EPA says its revision of the rule will help industry better determine if the materials being burned are nonwaste fuels.

“We are encouraged that the Environmental Protection Agency has decided to replace the flawed rule with a new rulemaking,” said Donna Harman, president and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association. “We understand it will be proposed on the same timeline as the BMACT (Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology) reconsideration proposal due out the end of the month. We look forward to reviewing the details when they are published.”      The MACT rules encompass standards for major source industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and process heaters; area source industrial, commercial and institutional boilers; commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators; and sewage sludge incinerators, as well as a definition of solid waste. They have also come under fire and charged as flawed, prompting the EPA to announce a reconsideration period to allow possible revisions. The EPA had asked for a 15-month extension past its initial January 2011 deadline to repropose the rules, after receiving almost 5,000 comments on its proposal released in April 2010. The extension was denied and the agency was given just one extra month.

When the final rules were released in February, the EPA promised a reconsideration period and announced in June that it would last until October. Subsequently, any changes to the rules will be finalized by April 2012. The rules were published to the Federal Register in March, but a stay remains in place for the standards pertaining to major source boilers and commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators.

The EPA Regulatory Relief Act is making its way through Congress and if passed, would allow the EPA at least 15 months to repropose the MACT rules for boilers, process heaters and incinerators; extend the compliance deadline from three to at least five years; direct EPA to adopt definitions allowing sources to use a wide range of alternative fuels; and direct EPA to ensure that the new rules are achievable by real-world boilers, process heaters and incinerators, and impose the least burdensome regulatory alternatives. The act has gotten approval in the House and just needs Senate approval.

"Legislation will ensure EPA has the time necessary to fix the Boiler MACT rules in a way that they will be affordable and achievable,” Harman said. “The NHSM rule is only one part of the problem addressed by H.R. 2250 and S. 1392. The Boiler MACT rules are the subject of much litigation, and legislation can provide a more certain path forward to getting rules that can finally be implemented. Members from both parties in the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2250 last week. We urge the Senate to quickly pass The EPA Regulatory Relief Act to achieve final Boiler MACT rules that protects American jobs and public health.”