EPA Rule Allows Toxic Air Emissions from Industrial Waste Incinerators

Federal rule exempts thousands of local waste incinerators from effective emission controls


Jim Pew, (202) 667-4500


Jared Saylor, (202) 667-4500

The Environmental Protection Agency today published a final rule exempting tens of thousands of on-site commercial and industrial waste incinerators from the protective air toxics emission standards that the Clean Air Act requires. The new rule will allow incinerators across the country to continue emitting dangerous amounts of toxic pollutants without adopting effective measures to control their pollution.

Against strong opposition from the environmental community, the EPA rule redefines thousands of incinerators that recover heat from waste combustion as “boilers” and “process heaters.” These facilities burn a wide range of wastes including shredded tires, solvents, glues, treated wood, paper mill sludge and waste oils. As a result, they emit such highly toxic pollutants as mercury, dioxins, and lead, among many others.

Although the Clean Air Act makes plain that facilities combusting solid waste must be regulated as incinerators regardless of whether they recover heat from the combustion process, EPA has refused to treat heat recovery units as incinerators. By labeling these on-site waste burners “boilers” and “process heaters” instead, the agency seeks to exempt them from compliance with the highly protective emission standards that the Clean Air Act requires.

Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, Louisiana Environmental Action Network and National Wildlife Federation filed comments earlier this year, calling on EPA to introduce tougher emission control standards that more effectively protect human health and the environment.

For more information, contact Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew at 202-667-4500.

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