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Boil and Trouble

Back in January, we reported on regulations proposed by the EPA that would limit toxic air pollution from industrial boilers. Every year, each one of these boilers– which burn everything from coal to natural gas and oil to biomass–  spews up to 25 tons of toxins like mercury, lead, dioxins, formaldehyde, sulfur, hydrochloric acid, and soot into the atmosphere. It’s estimated that the new regulations would prevent 1,800 to 4,800 premature deaths every year, and save $17 billion to $41 billion in medical costs every year.

The EPA released its clean-air standards for boilers in February, and major boiler operators would have had to install pollution controls by 2014. But this week the agency announced it would be suspending the new regulations indefinitely, after complaints by industry groups over the potential cost:

In a written statement, the EPA said it was postponing the effective date of the rule after deciding that the general public “did not have sufficient opportunity to comment” on it. The agency said allowing more time for analysis of the rule’s costs and benefits “is consistent with” a January executive order by President Barack Obama that directed federal agencies to review their regulations and “avoid excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulation.”

It is unclear when the agency will put the proposal into effect. The rule would have required companies with so-called major boilers to comply by 2014. The EPA says now it will freeze the rule until related lawsuits are resolved or until the agency finishes its review, “whichever is earlier,” said EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones.

This news comes shortly after researchers at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York announced the results of a study which finds that America spends a staggering $76.6 billion every year to cover the health expenses of our children who get sick from exposure to toxic chemicals and air pollution. The boiler rules which are now being delayed would have helped reduce that figure while improving kids’ health. When the EPA released the rules last year they pointed out that:

The rule would cut emissions of pollutants that are of particular concern for children. For example, mercury and lead can adversely affect developing brains – including effects on IQ, learning, and memory.”

Guess kids’ health is gonna have to wait.

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