EPA proposes stronger air pollution standards for large facilities that burn municipal solid waste
Proposal would improve air quality in communities overburdened by pollution, advancing environmental justice
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday 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 in a cost-effective fashion.
“President Biden believes every person deserves clean air to breathe and the opportunity to lead a healthy life, and EPA’s proposal is just the latest action to achieve this vision. By reducing harmful pollution and improving air quality, this rule will also advance environmental justice for nearby communities already overburdened with pollution,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA is committed to working with communities and state, local, and Tribal governments to ensure that large facilities burning municipal waste utilize the most up-to-date and cost-effective control technologies to reduce pollution and protect public health.”
The proposed standards would apply to 57 facilities with 152 units that have the capacity to combust more than 250 tons per day of municipal solid waste. Nearly 4 million Americans live within 3 miles of these large facilities, which are disproportionately located in low-income communities and communities of color. Today’s proposal supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s unprecedented and 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. 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.
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to evaluate these standards every five years in order to take into account developments in pollution control technologies and techniques. EPA last revised these standards in 2006. From day one, the Biden-Harris Administration has made advancing environmental justice a top priority, including by delivering on long overdue updates to pollution standards.
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 comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. EPA will hold an informational webinar and will announce details on our website shortly.