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Republican Senators Urge EPA to Reconsider Proposed Numeric Mercury Limit for Brick Industry
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In a July 2 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, three Republican senators asked EPA to reconsider its proposal to establish a numerical limit on mercury emissions from brick-making facilities saying that the cost of installing mercury controls could force small businesses involved in brick making to close.  The numeric mercury limits were included in a 2014 proposed rule that would establish limits on emissions on various hazardous air pollutants from brick and ceramics kilns.  EPA estimated the proposal would reduce nationwide emissions of air toxics by about 440 tons per year.  EPA has a court-ordered deadline of September 24 to issue final standards for facilities that manufacture brick, structural clay products and clay ceramics. 


Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), said in the letter that the agency should consider setting work practice standards to limit mercury emissions instead of establishing numeric emissions limits.  The senators questioned whether EPA's proposal to set numeric limits on mercury, which would require installation of pollution control devices that each cost about $2 million, would provide enough health benefits to justify the compliance costs.  The agency estimated the proposed standards would reduce mercury emissions industrywide by 118 pounds annually.  “Standards resulting in costly and anticipated control technology must demonstrate that any costs create commensurate benefits,” the senators wrote. “That does not appear to be the case here.”


The senators said a decision to set numerical standards for mercury could cause “roughly one-third” of small businesses in the brick-making industry to either close or consolidate operations.  EPA estimated that one or two facilities would be at “significant risk of closure” due to increased costs associated with the proposed standards.  However, the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy said in comments that the agency significantly underestimated the potential effect of the proposal on small manufacturers that may not be able to comply unless financing were available to cover initial capital costs for pollution controls. 


EPA's rulemaking effort is its second attempt to regulate hazardous emissions from the brick, structural clay and clay ceramics industries.  The agency first set national standards in 2003, but that rule was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2007.  View the senators' letter.
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