WASHINGTON — Citing the worries of a Maine business, Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon introduced a bill Wednesday that would delay new federal regulations limiting emissions from industrial boilers.
The bill would give the Environmental Protection Agency 15 months to re-examine the issue and come up with final rules. It would also extend compliance deadlines from three years to five.
The legislation — other co-sponsors are GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas — has been expected. It is similar to a bill pending in the House.
The bill would, “direct EPA to ensure that the new rules are achievable by real-world” boilers and “impose the least burdensome regulator alternatives,” according to a release by Collins and the other lawmakers.
The EPA has said its original rule would have cost $10 billion for industries nationwide — from paper mills to chemical plants — to retrofit boilers with air cleaning equipment.
The agency revised the regulations earlier this year and said it had cut that cost to $5 billion. But industry advocates say the cost was actually $20 billion originally and remains $14 billion.
The EPA seemed to acknowledge industry concerns in December, when it asked a federal court to allow it to work on the rules until April 2012. That request was denied, and the EPA was ordered to complete the final regulations by late February.
Collins on Wednesday used a hearing on general regulatory reform to talk about the boiler emissions bill, saying that the CEO of an architectural woodwork manufacturer in Windham who employs 65 people told her his company spent $300,000 on a wood-waste boiler that eliminated its use of fossil fuels for heat and its landfill waste stream. But under the rules the EPA proposed, Windham Millwork would have had to buy another new one, “for miniscule public benefit,” Collins said. “What possible sense does that make?”
Environmentalists say efforts to block or delay boiler emissions regulations overstate the costs to industry and allow harmful toxins such as mercury and lead to enter the air.
Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and other lawmakers, including GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, also have introduced or are working on legislation this year to overhaul the process for preparing new federal regulations.
The National Federation for Independent Business lauded the efforts by Snowe and Collins Wednesday, saying small businesses bear more regulatory costs than large businesses, proportionately, and that the reform bills would help level the playing field.
But the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, which includes labor, environmental and consumer advocacy groups such as Public Citizen, said Wednesday that the regulatory reform proposals would undermine important public health and safety protections.
The Obama administration has launched its own push to streamline federal regulations, but has expressed concern that some of the pending legislation would result in more court battles and make the process more uncertain.
Collins said at the hearing that she believes that various regulatory reform proposals can be combined into one bipartisan, comprehensive bill that “improves the regulatory process to make it less burdensome, more friendly to job creators, and no less protective to the public interest.”
MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at: