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EPA Proposes Stronger Air Pollution Standards for Large Facilities that Burn Municipal Solid Waste

The EPA has announced a proposal to strengthen Clean Air Act standards for large facilities that burn municipal solid waste. If finalized, the updated standards would reduce emissions of nine pollutants - including smog- and soot-forming sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides - by approximately 14,000 tons per year, improving air quality for overburdened communities living near these facilities. 

These proposed standards reflect current technologies available to control pollution cost-effectively, EPA said in a release. 

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. The proposed standards would apply to 57 facilities with 152 units that can combust more than 250 tons per day of municipal solid waste. Not-so-fun fact: Nearly 4 million Americans live within three miles of these large facilities, which are disproportionately located in low-income communities and communities of color. 

  1. The proposal supports ongoing efforts to protect overburdened communities from harmful pollution and is likely to reduce existing disproportionate and adverse effects on communities with environmental justice concerns. 

  1. The proposed standards are based on emission levels achieved by the best controlled and lower-emitting sources and limit emissions of nine pollutants: particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, lead, cadmium, mercury, and dioxins/furans.

Why is EPA taking this action? The Clean Air Act requires EPA to evaluate these standards every five years to take into account developments in pollution control technologies and techniques. EPA last revised these standards in 2006. 

And the agency lauded the expected benefits:

The estimated benefits of this action far outweigh the expected pollution control costs. After accounting for compliance costs of the rule, EPA estimated the net present value of health benefits from the proposed rule, due to reductions in particulate matter and ozone alone, to be up to $14 billion over 20 years. 

Reductions of mercury, lead, and other hazardous air pollutants required by the proposal are expected to result in additional unquantified economic and public health benefits. EPA believes this action is also likely to advance environmental justice by reducing existing disproportionate and adverse effects on overburdened communities.

EPA will accept comments on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Until then, you can read more information on the proposal and upcoming webinar for large municipal waste combustors.


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