New EPA Boiler Rule Affects Colleges and Universities
September 23, 2011
Institutions were required to notify the Environmental Protection Agency by September 17 about their boilers under regulations issued by the agency last spring intended to reduce hazardous air pollutants. Institutions also need to perform the first required biannual tune-ups on each existing boiler by March 21, 2012. Depending on the size and type of boiler, certain additional requirements for energy assessments and emissions limits will need to be met by March 21, 2014. Gas-fired boilers and certain other types are not covered, and boilers at some institutions that have the potential to generate a high level of air toxics will be covered under alternative “major source” regulations that have not yet been finalized.
Like many EPA rulemakings, steps to limit emissions from widespread and ubiquitous sources have long been drawn out, challenging, and fraught with controversy. Stakeholders on both sides tend to be passionately engaged and often turn to the courts to ask them to throw out rules or compel the agency to regulate. The rules on industrial, commercial, and institutional boilers—part of a series of regulations under the Clean Air Act known as the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP)—are no exception. In this environment, and under court ordered deadline for issuing regulations after rules issued by the Bush administration were overturned, EPA published three related sets of final rules on March 21:
- NESHAP for Area Sources: Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boilers
- NESHAP for Major Sources: Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boilers
- Standards of Performance for New Sources and Emission Guidelines for Existing Sources: Commercial, and Industrial Solid Waste Incineration Units
EPA, however, concerned that the public had not had sufficient opportunity to comment on some aspects of the rule, and that the agency had not been able to adequately consider comments it had received on the proposed rules, initiated a reconsideration of the rules. On May 18, the agency issued a stay of the effective date for the latter two notices, for major sources and solid waste incineration units. Only the NESHAP for area sources is still being implemented on the original schedule.
The vast majority of colleges and universities will fall into the area source category. An area source facility (a campus is considered a facility, not each building separately) emits or has the potential to emit less than 10 tons per year of any single hazardous air pollutant and less than 25 of any combination of hazardous air pollutants. A few large universities, depending on activities such as coal-burning power plants, may exceed those limits and fall into the major source category (and so are not covered by the area source rules). EPA estimates that there are some 187,000 boilers nationwide that may be covered by the area source NESHAP.
The area source rule applies to oil, biomass, and coal boilers. They are divided under the rules into large (≥ 10,000 BTU/hour) and small, and existing versus new (commenced construction or reconstruction on or before June 4, 2010). Notably, some types of boilers, including gas-fired ones, are not covered under the rule.
- An initial notification must be submitted to EPA by September 17, 2011, for all existing oil, biomass, and coal boilers. This notice provides EPA with basic information about boilers and process heaters on campus, including the design and manufacturer name, rated heat input capacity, and fuels used. If the deadline has been missed, submit the notification as soon as possible.
- A tune-up of existing oil and biomass boilers of all sizes, and small coal-fired boilers, must be conducted, according to the procedures in the rule, by March 21, 2012.
- Boiler owners must submit a Notification of Compliance Status to EPA following the initial tune-up, no later than July 19, 2012.
- A one-time energy assessment must be conducted on existing large boilers by March 21, 2014.
- New large boilers of all fuel types and existing large coal-fired boilers must meet emission limits, performance stack testing, and compliance monitoring requirements.
EPA has developed a resource page for the area source rule.
Additional information and a multitude of resources to help colleges and universities comply with environmental regulations can be found at CampusERC.
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