Consumers of tire-derived fuel and whole tires were thrown a curve in June of 2010 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first published its proposed boiler MACT (maximum achievable control technology) regulations and emissions standards for commercial/industrial solid waste incinerators (CISWI). However, the EPA responded to comments submitted by various industries and modified the proposed MACT standards, which will apply to industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and process heaters, as well as those standards applying to CISWI units, which are devices used to burn solid waste for energy recovery at a commercial or industrial facility. (This does not include municipal solid waste incinerators, which are covered under separate rules.) When the revised standards become effective in June of this year, recyclers processing tires for use as TDF (tire-derived fuel) largely should be relieved.
These regulations establish the degree of emissions reductions the EPA determines to be achievable for a particular source and the level of control technology that an emissions source, such as a factory or refinery, must install to control toxic air pollutants.
The revised emissions standards apply to area sources, which are small boilers used at places like hospitals, major boilers and process heaters used by large operations and CISWI units.
Existing boilers at major source facilities have three years to comply with the boiler MACT standards and can obtain an additional year if technology cannot be installed in time. Existing CISWI units have up to five years to comply.
The regulations include targeted revisions to the final rule identifying which nonhazardous secondary materials can be burned in boilers or solid waste incinerators.
Specifically, it was the definition of scrap tires under these regulations that concerned recyclers and consumers of TDF. Tires are a widely used boiler fuel and are allowed by the EPA in the current regulations.
Consider the Source
“At Liberty Tire Recycling, we are pleased that the EPA has listened carefully to the industry concerning scrap tires and their use as a nonwaste fuel,” says Jeff Kendall, CEO of Liberty Tire Recycling, Pittsburgh.
“We believe that the proposed revisions applicable to scrap tires are justified and will result in an efficient yet effective regulation,” Kendall adds.
Tires used to produce TDF come from a number of sources, including tire dealers, manufacturers disposing of blemished product and abandoned tires and tire piles. Tires from the first two sources are not considered solid waste, according to the regulations poised to go into effect; however, abandoned tires and tires recovered from piles are considered solid waste.
“Tires that have oversight are not affected by these rules,” explains David Wagger, director of environmental management for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI), Washington, D.C. If the tire has been under the control of responsible parties, according to the EPA, it is not solid waste.
That distinction is key. If TDF were to be defined as solid waste, all segments of the industry would have to follow the EPA guidelines originally promulgated in June 2010 and since updated and modified.
In early 2011, EPA’s “Final Rule” said tires would not be considered solid waste if they were not improperly discarded and there was oversight from the time they left the dealer to the time they reached the boiler. EPA then reconsidered the Final Rule, asking for comment into late February of this year.
“In its reconsidered Final Rule, the EPA said scrap tires from tire shops and off-spec tires are categorically not waste,” Wagger explains.
Some issues about processing remain and need to be ironed out, however.
“Our review of the MACT rule indicates that they primarily affect end users,” Kendall says. At the same time, he says that Liberty Tire Recycling stands ready to support its customers’ compliance with the EPA’s updated regulations in this area.
According to the EPA’s estimates, roughly 14,000 major source boilers and 187,000 area source boilers at 92,000 separate facilities nationwide are affected by the MACT rules. The EPA estimates that 12 percent, or 1,750, major source boilers would need to meet emissions limits to minimize toxics, while 2 percent, or 3,700, area source boilers would need to do so.
By Way of Background
The EPA did not initiate revisions to the MACT rules. The agency was under court order to revisit its regulations regarding boiler emissions as a result of lawsuits filed against the original version of the regulations the EPA promulgated in 2004.
In April 2010, the EPA issued draft boiler MACT rules. The EPA received nearly 5,000 individual comments regarding the proposed regulations. In comments, some people were hung up over specifying a list of boiler fuels versus recyclables. Others questioned whether such legislation was needed.
Among the members of Congress who expressed concern about the EPA’s draft rules were Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Rep. Mac Collins of Georgia, who said they feared the standards were not achievable for certain industries.
Collins introduced a bill in the U.S. House, and Wyden introduced one in the U.S. Senate. These bills were similar in that they called for a public list of secondary materials, such as plywood mill scrap and tires, that were permitted to be burned in boilers. The primary difference between the two bills is that Wyden’s version required a specific list of approved boiler fuels.
Similar bills have been drafted for the current (2012) Congress. If they again seem unlikely to pass on their own, they might be added to a larger package. This was attempted in 2011 when the House debated a jobs package that included the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011, which had implications for the boiler MACT rules.
In December of 2010, EPA asked the court for 15 additional months to address the comments it had received and to gather and analyze additional emissions data to ensure that it got the MACT regulations right before they were finalized.
Wyden—and many others—said they feared that eliminating tires from the list of materials that could be used as boiler fuel would only mean that tires could no longer be discarded in a way that creates heat and energy for certain industries. The result, Wyden said, was that more tires would end up in incinerators and landfills.
According to the EPA emissions regulations about to go into effect, tires can still be burned in incinerators as well as in other types of furnaces, such as cement kilns.
“Will TDF be perceived the same way in the marketplace as it was before?” Wagger asks. “I don’t know that anyone knows how it will shake out.”
Of major concern to recyclers is whether users will avoid TDF in light of worries about the boiler MACT rules. For abandoned tires, that probably will be a valid concern. Those tires will have to be rehabilitated prior to being used as TDF so they are no longer considered solid waste.
Kendall says, “While TDF has been identified as a nonwaste fuel, we do believe that the proposed December 2011 definition of nonhazardous secondary materials should be expanded to include scrap tires that have been discarded or abandoned and hope that the EPA will bring further clarity to this issue.”
For consumers of TDF, concerns remain about achievability and affordability of compliance. Many complain that the compliance deadline is not sufficient, given that many boilers throughout the U.S. will be clamoring for technicians and new parts for upgrades to meet compliance.
More than 200 pages of comments were filed by interested parties concerned about details within the rules, including achievability concerns, inadequate compliance time, uncertainty of classifying biomass materials as fuels, excessive costs and the prevalence of legal uncertainty. Concern remains regarding possible log-jams for state permitting. Some even fear that the technology to achieve compliance does not yet exist.
Whether Congress will weigh in on the issue again remains to be seen. It is an election year and the legislators’ concerns may be elsewhere.
Kendall says Liberty Tire Recycling will likely incur certain administrative costs related to sorting tires that have been recovered as the result of state-funded programs.
He also says the regulations, “seem to be much more restrictive on the pollution control side, particularly on the air quality side, along with legitimacy requirements for some of these fuels.”
Like others, Kendall says he sees continuing compromise between the EPA and industry in the coming months. “There are a number of industries that have an ultimate stake in these regulations,” he says, “and it is likely that Congress may be called upon to once again sort out all of their concerns.”
The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.