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EPA Argues for Regulating Sludge Incinerators Under MACT

Date: January 31, 2013

Source: News Room

In litigation over how to regulate sewage sludge incinerators (SSIs), the EPA is defending its decision to do so under maximum achievable control technology (MACT) limits rather than under weaker generally available control technology (GACT) limits as sought by industry. Publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), represented by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) filed suit over the SSI rule in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a case that has been consolidated as NACWA, et al. v. EPA, et al. Sierra Club is arguing in the case that EPA's regulations are not stringent enough.

In its Jan. 3 brief, NACWA argues that Sierra Club's and EPA's assertion that SSIs are subject to section 129 regulation is "wrong" and says the agency lacks power to regulate the units with the MACT because sewage sludge does not come "from" commercial or industrial facilities or the public, a central factor for regulating under the strict air toxics controls. In its defense, EPA argues that section 129, which it calls "the threshold statutory issue" in the suit, contains "unambiguous" language that requires it to regulate emissions from combustion of "any" solid waste by "any" of four listed categories of incineration units. There are only four exceptions to such regulation, and EPA says SSIs do not qualify for any of them "nor does NACWA argue that they do." Sierra Club defends EPA's decision but argues that the emissions floor in the rule is unreasonably weak.

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