The US Environmental Protection Agency has retracted new rules for burn-off ovens used in the finishing industry after a federal judge refused to grant them an extension in a lawsuit over the Clean Air Act.
The EPA in February announced that it was stripping out the proposed rules on burn-off ovens – used by coaters to remove powder coating and paints from racks – because of protests from the industry when the proposed regulations were first announced last fall.
Some finishers estimated it would have cost as much as $300,000 to retrofit their burn-off ovens to meet new CAA rules, but they complained to the EPA that their ovens were unfairly grouped with larger incinerators and boilers.
Following a Products Finishing magazine report in October on the new rules that many in the finishing and oven industry say they knew nothing about, several thousands of letters and emails bombarded the EPA offices, causing the agency to back off its original Dec. 16 date for having Administrator Lisa Jackson sign off on the updated rules.
The EPA went to Judge Paul Friedman of the U.S. District Court of the
EPA attorneys say they received nearly 5,000 comments that “raised issues that EPA had not fully considered and also provided substantial additional data that raised questions about some of the Agency’s initial conclusions,” including the fact that they reported only 36 known burn-off ovens in the U.S. when actually there could be tens of thouands.
Judge Friedman denied the EPA request for a 15-month extension, but gave them until the end of February to re-propose their rules and finish the lawsuit. The 2001 case against the EPA by the Sierra Club claims that the agency was unreasonably delaying issuance of rules required by the CAA to control air toxics from multiple industrial sectors, including industrial boilers and commercial and institutional solid waste incineration units.
The judge ruled that the EPA was using “discretionary delay” in prolonging the case because of input from Congress.
“Although much of the time-consuming rulemaking process for the Three Air Rules may have been appropriate under normal circumstances, the Court concludes that EPA engaged in discretionary delay in the face of a congressional directive,” Judge Friedman says in his ruling.
The EPA, meanwhile, blamed the issue on wrong oven data on the finishing industry, saying they did not provide correct information. Earlier the EPA says it contacted national industry organization and trade publications to gather input on the amount of ovens in the
“Public input included a significant amount of information that industry had not provided prior to the proposal,” says Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.
The new rules will address several types of boilers and incinerators:
- Large-source boilers at about 13,800 refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities.
- Small-source boilers located at about 187,000 universities, hospitals, hotels and commercial buildings that may be covered by these standards, but due to the small amount of emissions these sources are responsible for, EPA has limited the impact of the final rule making on small entities.
- Solid waste incinerators, which number about 88 and burn waste at a commercial or an industrial facility.