One day after U.S. EPA asked for more time to issue controversial limits on air pollution from industrial boilers, an influential advocacy group for state and local regulators today urged the agency not to be swayed by "total hyperbole" from industry.
The National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) released its analysis of a study by the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners (CIBO), which has argued that EPA's draft rules would have far greater economic impacts than the agency had predicted. EPA's proposal, which was released in April, has been widely condemned by paper mills, chemical companies and other businesses that use boilers for power.
According to the CIBO study, complying with the draft rules would cost about $20 billion -- twice as much as EPA has projected. And while EPA predicted that about 8,000 jobs would be lost because of the limits on mercury, dioxins and other types of toxic pollution, CIBO had said that about 16,000 jobs would be threatened for every $1 billion spent on compliance with the analysis (E&ENews PM, Sept. 15).
But according to the analysis by NACAA, the industry-funded study ignored the jobs that would be created by the regulations. While companies would need to spend billions of dollars on new pollution controls, perhaps leading some facilities to close down or scale back their operations, the upgrades also would require companies to hire thousands of employees to install, operate and maintain the equipment.
The industry study "simply ignores" those jobs, the NACAA analysis says. Bill Becker, the group's executive director, told reporters today that EPA should not do anything to help its critics undercut the new rules.
In a legal filing yesterday, EPA asked a federal court to extend the deadline for the boiler rules until April 2012. The agency said it wants to issue a new proposal and get another round of comments from the public (Greenwire, Dec. 7).
Industry groups, which welcomed EPA's request to delay the rules, said NACAA's analysis shows the need for the administration to release publicly a competing study of the rule's job impacts. Several lawmakers have written letters asking the administration to provide the internal analysis, which was completed by the International Trade Administration earlier this year.
"There's no question that EPA's boiler rule as originally written would have resulted in significant costs for manufacturers and small business and ultimately would have cost jobs," said Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, in a statement today. "These concerns, raised by a broad range of industries, lawmakers and even the administration's own Small Business Administration, have been acknowledged by EPA through its request for more time to revisit their proposed rule."
With Republicans poised to take control of the House next month, the boiler rules are expected to be put under the microscope on Capitol Hill. High-ranking Republicans such as Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, newly selected to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, have vowed to scrutinize the rules' effects on jobs.
If EPA just needs a few months to rework the regulations, state and local agencies would not mind, NACAA's Becker said, but "we do not want to offer some stakeholders any opportunity to bring this rule down."
He raised particular concerns about the rescission process, which would allow Congress to pull funding for the regulations.
Advocacy groups that praised the public health and environmental benefits of EPA's boiler proposal have accused the agency of bowing to political pressure. They have spent years suing EPA to make the agency issue the rules, which were originally due in 2000.
"That the EPA would risk so many Americans' lives and health to placate these industry groups is deeply distressing," said Jim Pew, a staff attorney at Earthjustice, in a statement. "We hope that the EPA will remember that its mission is to protect public health and the environment, not the profits of big polluters and their Beltway lobbyists."
Click here to read the NACAA analysis.