AIR POLLUTION:

Upton renews push to incorporate new boiler language in payroll tax cut

House Energy and Committee Chairman Fred Upton yesterday emphasized legislation that would undo U.S. EPA's recent air pollution rules for industrial boilers and incinerators, indicating that House Republicans may push hard for the measure as the House and Senate seek to finalize legislation to extend the payroll tax cut.

The Michigan Republican's remarks came at the first meeting of House and Senate negotiators seeking to find a long-term extension of the payroll tax cut, after both chambers passed short-term plans at the end of last year. The conference is hoping to strike a deal before funding for the cut runs out at the end of February.

While the boiler language was included in the long-term House payroll package, it did not make it into the short-term Senate bill that the House eventually approved right before Christmas.

Upton said that President Obama's Jobs Council has said that federal regulators need to "enhance American competitiveness through smart regulatory reform."

The House payroll tax extension bill, which included legislation (H.R. 2250) to delay EPA's boilers rule, he said, would do exactly that.

"The purpose of the bill is to give just a little bit of regulatory relief to facilities all across the country facing costly new rules for industrial and commercial boilers and incinerators," Upton said. "We're talking about everything from manufacturing facilities to colleges and universities -- all of which will be affected by the EPA's new rules."

Upton went on to say that EPA "concedes major flaws in the rules."

EPA's so-called Boiler MACT rule would limit emissions of mercury, soot and acid gases from industrial boilers and incinerators.

After initially receiving significant pushback, EPA proposed changes to the rule at the end of last year and has said it plans to finalize the rule by May. In the meantime, it sought to delay the start date of the new regulations, but a federal judge struck down that move earlier this month -- telling EPA it must move forward with the rules (E&ENews PM, Jan. 10).

Since the ruling, EPA has said that removing the delay will only affect administrative tasks and that the agency will not enforce those requirements until it finalizes the new version (Greenwire, Jan. 19).

The reconsideration, delay and now court order have all created "continuing and extensive uncertainty" for industry, Upton said. The language only allows more time for EPA to develop the rules and extra compliance time for industry, Upton said.

"Is [that] too much to ask when estimates show that EPA's rules will cost more than $14 billion to implement?" Upton said. "Is it too much to ask when these new rules are projected to put more than 200,000 jobs at risk? Regulatory relief is a principle President Obama himself proposed about a year ago."

Revisiting boilers in the Senate?

While Upton and House Republicans appear ready to rein in the boiler rule, it remains unclear whether senators will take up the issue as they did last year.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who introduced S. 1392 with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), said he was still considering whether to push a similar bill now that EPA has proposed revisions.

"I'm going to have to talk to colleagues before I make any judgments," Wyden said.

Wyden's bill earned more than 40 bipartisan co-sponsors, but it was also sharply criticized by environmental groups. It has not yet received a vote in the full chamber.

Reporter Jean Chemnick contributed.

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