Action Alerts  


Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (336) 982-2691

An important air pollution and solid waste rule is now being considered by the US Environmental Protection Agency. We are asking you to join us in telling the EPA to apply the strictest pollution standards to all types of waste burning plants.

At present, the EPA has drafted a rule and is asking for public comments. The deadline for you to act is Tuesday, August 3, 2010.

In the past, EPA excluded industrial facilities that burn solid waste to generate electricity from being subject to the strict standards for incinerators. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has determined that the federal Clean Air Act requires that a unit burning “any solid waste material at all” must be regulated as a solid waste incinerator. And the rule applies regardless of whether the material is being burned as fuel. However, today EPA appears to be ignoring the law and the welfare of the people.

At issue is the definition of solid waste and which section of the federal Clean Air Act applies to waste burners: Industrial boilers are regulated under Section 112; Commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators are controlled under Section 129. Of the two, Section 129 is the much stricter standard. A large majority of the comments submitted to EPA have been from industry sources seeking to weaken the rule by limiting the definition of solid waste. Your comments are needed to counter the pollution for profit crowd. Comments can be brief but should encourage EPA to adopt a broad definition of solid waste (see list below). Reference to a specific facility in your state or your community would be particularly helpful. Information on how to comment is at the bottom of this email.

Waste Materials Considered in the Proposed Rule

All these materials, if burned, should be subject to incinerator rules (Clean Air Act Section 129)

Scrap Plastics
Scrap Tires
Spent Solvents and Related Materials
Used Oil
Wastewater Treatment Sludge
Gaseous Biomass (for example, landfill gas)
Agricultural Residues
Food Scraps
Construction and Demolition Materials
Forest Biomass
Pulp and Paper Residues
Resinated Wood Products
Auto Shredder Residue
Blast Furnace Slag
Disaster Debris
Coal Fly Ash, Bottom Ash, and Boiler Slag
Cement Kiln Dust

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League Talking Points

Section 129 of the Clean Air Act that regulates solid waste incinerators covers more facilities, more pollutants and is far more protective of public health and the environment than Section 112.

A narrow definition of solid waste will allow the co-firing of waste materials, such as construction and demolition waste, scrap tires, used oil, railroad ties, etc., in conventional boilers with fewer pollution limits and controls.

A broad definition that discourages the incineration of solid waste with more comprehensive regulatory controls will provide greater incentives for recycling, composting, anaerobic digestion and other safer alternatives.

Facilities that co-fire solid waste materials with fossil fuels are often located in rural or low-income communities, raising issues of environmental justice.

The impacts from burning non-traditional materials, like poultry litter, are poorly understood, have almost no regulatory experience and would be more effectively regulated as solid wastes under Section 129.

Facilities should not have the option of petitioning EPA for a case-by-case exemption without any notice to the public.

Classifying materials that remain in the control of the generator and meet certain “legitimacy” criteria as fuels for energy recovery and not as solid waste will allow many facilities to operate in communities outside of any meaningful regulation.

EPA has erroneously asserted that burning solid waste onsite for energy recovery constitutes recycling and is not waste incineration.

Below are excerpts from joint comments submitted by Earth Justice, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council on June 14, 2010:

“If EPA finalizes this definition, it will leave people living in communities across America exposed to uncontrolled pollution from industrial waste incinerators and at risk of suffering serious adverse health effects as a result. Under this administration, EPA has provided tremendous leadership in protecting vulnerable communities. We do not understand why this agency would assert authority to reduce or eliminate these risks but choose to let them go unchecked.”

“If finalized, the currently proposed definition of solid waste would allow facilities to burn scrap plastics, spent solvents, shredded tires, used oil, waste coal, and industrial sludges in boilers or process heaters that have been exempted from any meaningful control, monitoring, or reporting requirements.”

Federal Register: June 4, 2010, Volume 75, Number 107, Page 31843

SUMMARY: On January 2, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to solicit comment on which non-hazardous secondary materials that are used as fuels or ingredients in combustion units are solid wastes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The meaning of ``solid waste'' as defined under RCRA is of particular importance since it will determine whether a combustion unit is required to meet emissions standards for solid waste incineration units issued under section 129 of the Clean Air Act (CAA) or emissions standards for commercial, industrial, and institutional boilers issued under CAA section 112. CAA section 129 states that the term ``solid waste'' shall have the meaning ``established by the Administrator pursuant to [RCRA].'' EPA is proposing a definition of non-hazardous solid waste that would be used to identify whether non-hazardous secondary materials burned as fuels or used as ingredients in combustion units are solid waste. EPA is also proposing that non-hazardous secondary materials that have been discarded, and are therefore solid wastes, may be rendered products after they have been processed (altered chemically or physically) into a fuel or ingredient product. This proposed rule is necessary to identify units for the purpose of developing certain standards under sections 112 and 129 of the CAA. In addition to this proposed rule, EPA is concurrently proposing air emission requirements under CAA section 112 for industrial, commercial, and institutional boilers and process heaters, as well as air emission requirements under CAA section 129 for commercial and industrial solid waste incineration units.

How to Comment:

Regardless of the method you choose to submit your comment, be sure to include the Docket ID number: EPA-HQ-RCRA-2008-0329 Submit your comments by postal mail, fax, email, or on the Internet before midnight, August 3rd.

Email: Send to:

Internet: Go to and follow the online instructions.

Fax number: 202-566-9744

Postal address:
Proposed Rulemaking
Identification of Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials That Are Solid Waste
Environmental Protection Agency
Mailcode: 28221T
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460