(Corrects costs in third paragraph to $2.1 billion from $1.8
* Cuts costs for industry by half to $1.8 bln
* Limits toxic emissions from industrial boilers
* Similar rules on power plants expected soon
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration
scaled back on demands for heavy industrial boilers to cut
toxic air emissions, a sign it may be willing to compromise
with businesses and Republicans on future air pollution rules.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday issued
final regulations on cutting air pollutants such as mercury and
soot at boilers, which provide heat and power at factories, and
The new standards will cost paper product makers, chemical
plants and manufacturers $2.1 billion a year, down from $3.9
billion annually rules proposed last year would have cost, the
While the rules are only a minor part of the EPA's agenda
this year, they come at a time when the agency is racing to
deliver on President Barack Obama's promise to show the world
that the United States is taking action on climate change.
Manufacturers and other industries have complained that a
slate of looming EPA rules on toxic pollution and greenhouse
gases would kill jobs while the economy is fragile. Many
lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives
have said the EPA would unfairly burden business.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is battling fierce legal and
legislative challenges in her drive to crack down on greenhouse
gas emissions, but Wednesday's decision -- which came after
receiving about 4,800 comments from industry and communities --
suggests the agency is able to compromise.
"Because the final standards have been informed by a robust
data set and comments we've received following the proposal,
they are realistic, they are achievable ... and come at about
half the cost to industry," Gina McCarthy, an EPA assistant
administrator for air, told reporters in a teleconference.
The final rules were more flexible than the proposed
regulation, by allowing, for example, companies to fine-tune
their pollution systems rather than add costly new controls.
It was unclear how much more pollution would be emitted as
a result of the EPA rules rewrite, but the agency said many
health benefits would be achieved.
The standards will avert between 2,600 and 6,600 premature
deaths, prevent 4,100 heart attacks and forestall 42,000 asthma
attacks per year in 2014, it said. The rules will create a net
of about 2,000 jobs, it added.
"In the end it still provides huge health protections, not
as much as before, but enough," considering the pressures on
the EPA to compromise, said Bill Becker, executive director of
the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.
The somewhat arcane boiler rules aim to reduce emissions
with so-called "maximum achievable control technology" or
Next month the EPA is expected to propose more widely
watched MACT rules on toxic emissions from power plants. Those
will likely be opposed by some power companies and lawmakers
from states with economies that depend heavily on fossil
The EPA also plans to issue rules on emissions of
greenhouse gases from oil refineries and power plants later
this year. [ID:nN23440737]
Environmentalists and industry expressed cautious optimism
about the rules, though neither group was completely pleased.
Bob Bessette, president of the Council of Industrial Boiler
Owners, said the rules still need work but "decrease the
economic impacts and achieve greater health benefits".
Shelley Vinyard, a toxics advocate for Environment America,
said: "While this rule is modest in comparison to the standard
proposed last April, we applaud the EPA for its continued
commitment to our health and our environment."
The EPA said because the final rule had been changed
substantially from the proposal, it would allow further public
review of the standards.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Dale Hudson and
© 2016 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.