Cut­ting Toxic Pol­lu­tion

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The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) in the US has an­nounced that it will make it much cheaper for com­pa­nies to re­duce toxic air pol­lu­tion from in­dus­trial boil­ers and in­cin­er­a­tors. The EPA said it has found ways to con­trol pol­lu­tion at more than 200,000 in­dus­trial boil­ers, heaters and in­cin­er­a­tors na­tion­wide at a 50 per­cent cost sav­ings to the com­pa­nies and in­sti­tu­tions that run them. That would save $1.8 bil­lion and still avert thou­sands of changes will cre­ate 2,200 jobs, and that doesn’t in­clude em­ploy­ment stem­ming from pur­chases of pol­lu­tion-con­trol tech­nol­ogy.

The deep dis­count for pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries sends a mes­sage to Congress that pub­lic health ben­e­fits can be achieved more eco­nom­i­cally, and that the ad­min­is­tra­tion is se­ri­ous about Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Jan­uary18 ex­ec­u­tive or­der to re­view reg­u­la­tions that hurt job growth.

Repub­li­cans and some Democrats have harshly crit­i­cized the EPA re­cently over the re­finer­ies, chem­i­cal plants, hos­pi­tals and even churches. They are also the sec­ond­largest source of toxic mer­cury emis­sions in the United States af­ter coal-fired power plants. Mer­cury is a metal that even at low lev­els can cause sub­tle but se­ri­ous dam­age to the brain and senses.

The new rule would im­ply that the bulk of in­dus­trial boil­ers at small fa­cil­i­ties would not have to meet cer­tain pol­lu­tion stan­dards. In­stead, they would have to do tune-ups ev­ery two years to re­duce emis­sions. The heart at­tacks and asthma cases a year, the agency said.

These rules “put in place im­por­tant pub­lic health safe­ costs sub­stan­tially lower than we had es­ti­mated un­der our orig­i­nal pro­posal,” Gina Mc­Carthy, EPA’s top air pol­lu­tion of­fi­cial, said in a state­ment.

Be­sides the en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits, the an­nounce­ment hopes to cre­ate jobs in the mar­ket too. An up­dated jobs anal­y­sis com­pleted by the agency shows the costs of a whole host of reg­u­la­tions. At least a half-dozen bills have been in­tro­duced this year to block or cur­tail agency reg­u­la­tions. It has been re­ported that four Repub­li­cans and two Democrats wrote that the boiler rule could make mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, uni­ver­si­ties, and fed­eral fa­cil­i­ties vul­ner­a­ble to “ex­ces­sive and ex­pen­sive reg­u­la­tory bur­dens.”

In­dus­trial boil­ers, which burn coal and other fu­els to gen­er­ate steam and hot wa­ter for heat and elec­tric­ity, are used by roughly 13,800 large in­dus­trial boil­ers at re­finer­ies, chem­i­cal plants and other fac­to­ries would still have to com­ply with new emis­sions stan­dards re­quir­ing them to in­stall tech­nolo­gies to re­duce pol­lu­tion in three years.

The EPA also re­duced com­pli­ance costs by ex­empt­ing clean-burn­ing fu­els from meet­ing the new emis­sions lim­its, some­thing that ini­tially ap­plied only to nat­u­ral gas-fired boil­ers

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