U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has pushed back the enactment date for its new Clean Air Act rules to Jan. 14, which could mean they are rescinding strict new regulations on burn-off ovens used by many finishers and coaters.
The one-month extension from when U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is expected to sign the new rules into law follows extensive complaints from those in the boiler, oven and finishing industry over their objection to burn-off ovens—used to remove powder coating and paints from racks—being label as a solid waste incinerators.
After Products Finishing magazine first reported in November on the new rules that many in the finishing and oven industry say they knew nothing about, several thousands letters and emails bombarded the U.S. EPA offices, causing the agency to back off its original Dec. 16 date for having Jackson sign the updated rules into law.
“We’ve heard from a lot of people, and so there’s always the possibility of change,” says the EPA’s Charlene Spells with the Natural Resources and Commerce Group, Sector Policies and Programs Division. “That’s why we ask for their comments to begin with.”
But Spells wouldn’t say if the rules—which will be published online at regulations.gov
after Jan. 14—would change between now and the signing date.
“It’s a deliberative process, and I can’t share with you whether we will make changes or not,” she says. “But I will say that we are taking all those comments and concerns into consideration. People will just have to wait and see what finally gets posted when it is signed.”
The comments and complaints were not only from business owners, as several state EPA officials and members of Congress came out opposed to the new rules.
State EPA offices in Illinois, New York, California, Missouri and Kentucky, among others, joined with numerous local and state officials to blast the burn-off rules as excessive, saying they would put finishers who use them out of business or cause extreme financial hardship.
Laurel Kroack, chief of the Bureau of Air section for the Illinois EPA, condemned the new rules as “flawed.” (Read the full text of Kroack's letter here
“We believe that U.S. EPA's technical and economic justification to support its position that burn-off ovens be included as CISWI units is seriously flawed,” Kroack says. “For example, U.S. EPA's analysis assumes that there are only 36 burn-off ovens currently operating nationwide. This analysis is flawed as there are approximately 90 burn-off ovens permitted to operate just in Illinois. By underestimating the number of such units in operation, U.S. EPA has seriously underestimated the economic impact of requiring these units to meet the requirements of other CISWI units.”
James Kavanaugh, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources air pollution control program, said the rules are too costly. (Read the full text of Kavanaugh's letter here
“The elimination of burn-off ovens would have costly impacts to small businesses and are without air pollution benefits,” Kavanaugh says. “Burn-off ovens will basically be eliminated, replaced by alternative methods. One method is the use of sandblasting, which EPA estimates as costing $118,250 per year, as compared to a cost of $53.75 per year to operate a burn-off oven.”
David Shaw, director of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, requested that Jackson implement a minimum size applicability threshold be established for this subcategory. (Read the full text of Shaw's letter here
“The small amount of waste combusted by many units in this subcategory results in insignificant emissions that may be difficult to quantify, collect and control,” Shaw wrote.
Even the ‘Terminator’ himself, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, called on Jackson to roll back some of the requirements, saying the changes will cause more harm than good when finishers need to seek other ways to clean racks.
“California has adopted some of the nation’s most ambitious renewable energy and greenhouse gas reductions goals,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “I am concerned that rule changes being considered by your agency will undermine the progress we are making.”
Senator Christopher Bond from Missouri and Congressman Michael Conaway from Texas also pleaded with Jackson to take a step back on the rules, saying the rules will cost jobs.
“In these difficult economic times, it is more imperative than ever that we balance our stewardship of the environment with our need for economic growth,” Conaway wrote
. “All government agencies must make certain that their rules do not have unintended consequences that will burden productive enterprises beyond what is reasonable.”
Robert Bessette, president of the Council Of Industrial Boiler Owners, suggested to the EPA that creating a new category for burn-off ovens—and not lumping them in with all other incinerators—would solve the problem.
“First of all, the purpose of these units is to clean parts for reuse, not incinerate solid waste,” Bessette says. “Secondly, most of these units do not use incineration or combustion processes. Rather, they use lower temperature processes such as melting or pyrolysis to melt/decompose materials such as plastic or polymer. These ovens are specifically designed to avoid flaming conditions which would damage the parts being cleaned.”
The CIBO chastised the EPA for grossly underestimating the number of burn-off ovens operating in the U.S. when it figured its economic impact for its rules. The EPA estimated roughly 36 ovens, when the number could be in the thousands, Bessette says.
“We suspect EPA is unaware of the actual number of these units because sources did not realize EPA was including burn-off ovens as solid waste incinerators,” he says.