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PBT Rule Finalized (11/03/99)

On October 29, 1999 EPA published in the Federal Register a final rule regarding persistent bioaccumulative toxic (PBT) chemicals. The main thrust of this rule is to lower the reporting thresholds for certain PBT chemicals that are subject to reporting under Section 313 of the Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA). [The current Section 313 threshold for chemicals that are manufactured or processed is 25,000 lb/yr.] The rule also adds dioxin and dioxin-like compounds to the Section 313 list of toxic chemicals and establishes a 0.1 gram reporting threshold for these compounds. Additionally, the rule also removes the "fume" or "dust" qualifier from the vanadium listing, and now includes all forms of vanadium with the exception of vanadium that is contained in alloys.

The most important part of the PBT rule for owners/operators of coal-fired boilers is that it lowers the mercury reporting threshold to 10 lb/yr! As a result, RMB estimates that mercury emissions will need to be reported for just about every coal-fired electric utility boiler in the U.S. What's wrong with this picture? A threshold of 100 lb/yr would mean that mercury emissions would be reported for no more than 2/3 of the coal-fired utility boiler population, but such reporting would account for over 95% of the annual mercury emissions from this group of sources. Of course, this EPA administration will never have to be worried about being accused of issuing cost-effective regulations.

The sole bright spot of the final PBT rule for the electric utility industry may be the statement that EPA does not intend to extend the mercury information collection request (ICR) beyond the end of the year. There had been some concern that if the Agency were not able to finalize its PBT rule this year, EPA might seek to require utility plants to continue to collect and analyze coal samples for mercury for yet another year.

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RMB Consulting & Research, Inc.
Last Revised: November 03, 1999