WASHINGTON — Faced with stiff opposition in Congress and a court-ordered deadline, the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it will make it much cheaper for companies to reduce toxic air pollution from industrial boilers and incinerators.
In an overhaul of air pollution regulations, the EPA said it 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. Those operating large boilers that burn renewable fuels would not be required to install some expensive technologies, and only maintenance would be required for smaller boilers. That would cost $1.8 billion less each year than the original proposal, and still avert thousands of heart attacks and asthma cases a year, the agency said.
The EPA said initially the annual cost would be $3.9 billion when all the rules took effect. An updated jobs analysis completed by the agency shows the changes will create 2,200 jobs, and that doesn't include employment stemming from purchases of pollution-control technology.
Industrial boilers, which burn coal and other fuels to generate steam and hot water for heat and electricity, are used by refineries, chemical plants, hospitals and even churches. They are also the second-largest 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.