Casey and Toomey Urge EPA to Revise Rule that Could Harm Steel Industry and Needlessly Increase Emissions

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) today led a bipartisan group of Senators in urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revise a proposed rule that would negatively impact domestic steel production.

“Many significant employers in small towns struggling to recover from the economic downturn are affected by these rules, so we have to strike a balance that reduces emissions and does not unduly burden Pennsylvania companies,” said Senator Casey. “I urge the EPA to revise these rules so our manufacturers can maintain their efficiency and remain competitive in the global market.”

“EPA’s new rules affecting the industrial boilers used by many steel mills and other manufacturers are a direct threat to our nation’s global competitiveness and undermine job growth,” Sen. Toomey said. “I have strongly advocated that manufacturers be given more time to comply with this rule, at a minimum, and have urged the agency to consider the unintended consequences of making American steel producers less energy efficient.”

Iron and steel manufacturers recycle gases from coke ovens and blast furnaces to fuel plant boilers. Recycling these gases as a fuel is important because it allows the recovery of energy that would otherwise be wasted, which increases the efficiency of iron and steel plants while decreasing their emissions.

The EPA’s proposed Maximum Achievable Control Technology (‘Boiler MACT’) rule would have the unintended consequence of forcing these plants to flare gases that they could otherwise use as fuel, wasting energy and raising the overall emissions level of the plants.

“The efficiency gains available from enhanced process gas combustion are essential to ensuring the competitive position of our U.S. steel industry in a challenging global market,” the Senators wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “We believe the additional changes that are needed can be accomplished as you take steps to finalize the rule.”     

The full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Lisa P. Jackson

Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency

Dear Administrator Jackson:

We are writing to express our concern about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed revised Maximum Achievable Control Technology final rule for industrial boilers (“Boiler MACT”) that was published on December 23, 2011.

As you may know, iron and steel manufacturers have long used process gases from coke ovens and blast furnaces to fuel plant boilers.  We have been informed that the utilization of these gases as a fuel is important because it allows the recovery of energy that would otherwise be wasted; this increases the efficiency of iron and steel plants while decreasing their emissions.

EPA demonstrated that it understands the urgency of this issue in its proposed Boiler MACT rule when it included an exemption for units that primarily combust blast furnace gas. Despite this provision, we believe additional changes are needed to ensure that the Boiler MACT rule does not deter the beneficial use of other key gases produced from the steelmaking process. We ask EPA to consider providing a similar exemption for units that recover heat from coke oven gas.

We feel that such a change will provide significant environmental benefits by encouraging the combustion of coke oven gas for energy recovery in boilers instead of creating incentives to flare the gas and combust additional fossil fuels. The efficiency gains available from enhanced process gas combustion are essential to ensuring the competitive position of our U.S. steel industry in a challenging global market. 

We believe the additional changes that are needed can be accomplished as you take steps to finalize the rule.  We thank you for your serious consideration of this important issue and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

Patrick J. Toomey

United States Senator

Sherrod Brown

United States Senator

Rob Portman

United States Senator

Daniel Coats

United States Senator

John D. Rockefeller IV

United States Senator

Richard G. Lugar

United States Senator

Joe Manchin III

United States Senator

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