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Message to the EPA Administrator: Power Plant MACT Rules Must Meet Best In Breed Standard

March 7, 2011

Dear Ms. Jackson:

EPA’s recent industrial boiler air toxics regulations – even compared with the draft rules proposed last Spring – disappointed on several significant fronts.  As we at Clean Air Task Force see it, EPA’s “Boiler MACT” rule:

  • Weakened emission limits by transparently fiddling with and adding new boiler sub-categories;
  • Manipulated emission floors so they clearly do not reflect the best performers; and
  • Lets many boiler owner/operators off the hook from meeting technology- based standards for the carcinogenic pollutants they emit, and instead simply requires boiler “tune-ups.”

We know these rules cover every manner of mongrel boiler, from commercial furnaces for shopping malls in Florida to wood burning boilers serving the forest products industry in Northern Maine, to bagasse burners in Hawaii.  With so many different fuels burned in so many different kinds of boilers producing so many different toxic chemical emissions, clearly EPA failed to rise to the challenge of creating a set of necessary strong regulations for an industry this broad.

But Administrator Jackson, you have another opportunity coming up to take a courageous stance on some bigger dogs.

Courage!  Utility Units Are  An Entirely Different Animal:

The Power Plant Air Toxics Proposal, due out in mid-March, covers only one breed of generators — utility steam generating units burning coal and oil.  Your Agency has studied this industry since the early 1990s, putting out Reports to Congress on mercury and the many other air toxics these units emit, in 1998.  The National Academy of Sciences has also intensively studied this industry, and The General Accounting Office has issued reports showing that deep reductions in mercury can occur at very bearable costs.

And just two years ago, when you agreed that issuing technology-based standards for this industry by mid-March of this year is imperative, your Agency embarked on an intensive information collection request effort.  That work is completed. So now, for this breed of power plants, we all know precisely what needs to be regulated. Existing plants emit enormous amounts of mercury, heavy metals, and acid gases, and have been able to continue unregulated far past the deadline for national standards set out by Congress over 20 years ago.

And we know what the best performers look like – we know the breed standard — EPA just needs the courage to articulate it.  And let’s not forget what we’re talking about here: finally, the regulation of toxic air pollution from an industry including a lot of old, dirty dogs —  that have significant public health and environmental effects — under a law enacted over two decades ago. The political conditions for this regulation are still not polite, to say the least.  But this time, you have the information you need to enforce the law to create a safer, cleaner U.S. power industry, based on “best-in-breed” generating units.

The time has come for action on the old dogs.  Power plant air toxics rules that are truly based on state-of-the-art, best-in-breed performers, and that manifest the spirit and intent of the law, are long overdue.

Have courage, Administrator Jackson, and take that bold step.


Ann Weeks

Senior Counsel

Clean Air Task Force

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