PITTSBURGH, Oct. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Responding to United Steelworker (USW) concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to rewrite rules to allow alternative biomass fuels to be used as fuel in industrial, commercial and institutional boilers.
The EPA has notified the USW that its decision to re-propose significant parts of its Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials Rule (NHSM) will include redefining a variety of biofuel materials as fuel rather than waste.
The pending action will save thousands of jobs and protect the environment by preventing millions of tons of carbon-neutral biomass materials from being diverted to landfills or vented to the atmosphere rather than be used as alternatives to fossil fuels.
"The USW would like to commend the EPA for all the hard work it has done to be responsive to our union's concerns about this rule. We are confident that EPA's proposed changes will help preserve family-wage jobs and encourage investment in technologies to make America more energy independent," USW International President Leo W. Gerard said.
"With these changes we are hopeful a legislative remedy will not be needed. Our concern with a legislative approach to address concerns about this rule and related EPA boiler rules has been that in the current climate, common sense is unlikely to prevail. Too many ideologues would want to add their baggage to the bill with provisions that would not protect our jobs or the environment."
The rule, originally issued on March 1, is designed to sort out which materials would be considered fuel and which would be designated as waste. Waste materials are more stringently regulated under the Clean Air Act than those designated as fuel under the NHSM rule as originally proposed by the EPA.
The NHSM rule was promulgated as part of a suite of EPA rules dealing with air emissions from industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and from waste incinerators. Application of the three air rules was suspended in April so EPA could ensure that companies and institutions operating boilers subject to the rules would be able to comply without unduly impacting their ability to operate.
While EPA suspended the air rules earlier this year, the agency did not suspend the NHSM rule. "That's why we are pleased with EPA's current decision to re-propose sections of the NHSM rule," said International Vice President Jon Geenen, who leads the USW's paper sector. "Rule suspensions do occur, but it is not often that EPA re-proposes a rule that has already been finalized."
The EPA has indicated that it will explicitly state that a variety of biofuel materials are in fact fuels rather than waste materials. The agency will propose a petition process for fuels that do not meet current strict fuel legitimacy criteria.
The agency will include resinated wood in the rule text and may be willing to include a short list of additional materials. Resinated wood products such as board trim and sander dust can be used as boiler fuel.
"This indicates clearly that the regulatory process can be made to work and that working in good faith with the agencies is the correct approach to ensuring regulations that benefit both workers and the environment," Gerard said.
The USW represents 850,000 members in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, a majority of whom work in industries impacted by the EPA boiler rules.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)