The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry groups including cement producers have failed to settle a permit dispute that is testing whether the agency has the authority to require operators of hazardous waste combustion units to conduct risk assessments that can be used to strengthen emissions limits for mercury and other pollutants when renewing the facilities' existing waste and air permits. Negotiations stalled during a meeting in November 2013 between EPA lawyers and cement kiln operators at EPA's Region V offices, according to an 8 January 2014 status report the parties filed with the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB). Litigation will continue on 20 February 2014.
The case began on 8 July 2013 when ESSROC Cement petitioned the EAB to review Region V's decision requiring a site-specific risk assessments (SSRA) at ESSROC's hazardous waste combustor facility in Logansport, Indiana, during the 2012 renewal of the facility's RCRA permit. After the facility conducted the SSRA, Region V imposed a restrictive annual mercury feed rate limit, which ESSROC said, "goes far beyond what is necessary to protect human health and the environment."
The case marks a new test for the risk assessment requirements EPA attached to its 2005 regulations governing hazardous waste combustion facilities that emit air pollutants, including cement kilns. The 2005 regulations set strict new maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards under the Clean Air Act (CAA) for the combustion facilities that burn the hazardous waste. The rule also integrated the MACT standards with Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requirements so that facilities must comply with the MACT standards to be eligible for RCRA permits.