January 29, 2020
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Sen. Susan Collins leads on boiler rules that affect Maine’s paper mills

Recent hyperbolic claims on the op-ed pages of the Bangor Daily News by critics of Sen. Susan Collins’ Boiler MACT legislation assert their own facts on this issue. Those who purport to want the regulations are precisely the ones who have drawn out the process and had the previous rules vacated by the courts.

Put simply, Collins has shown true leadership in working to allow for rules to be actually implemented.

The Environmental Protection Agency has not been clear in defining biomass — often wood waste that is a byproduct of the papermaking process — as fuel rather than waste. If biomass is considered waste, the boilers that burn it are regulated differently than if it is considered fuel. If mills are unable to burn the biomass, it must be landfilled.

Further, the rules don’t match the enabling law. The Boiler MACT law regulates a variety of pollutants. The law intended to have boilers meet Maximum Achievable Control Technology, or MACT; however, the rules took the best performance in each category, when in the real world no individual boiler can meet all of the targets.

The best analogy would be someone who wants a car that accelerates like a Ferrari, has the carrying and towing capacity of a Ford F-350 truck and the gas mileage of a smart car. It can’t be done in just one car.

These boilers do have controls in place. Mills using these boilers have made investments to be compliant with the previous Boiler MACT rules only to have them vacated in the final months.

Those investments are still in place. Those of us in the paper industry stand ready to comply with regulations that can actually be achieved.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal last year overshot the mark, which was confirmed by it proposing the rules again. Collins’ legislation has been a driving force toward making possible regulations that allow protection of public health and jobs to work together.

What the senator’s bill actually served to do, contrary to the accusations of some, is to put in place parameters that allow the ability to implement the controls that are needed. What good are regulations if the technology doesn’t exist to meet them or is not readily available in time to meet the strict deadlines? Not much.

Collins is to be commended for leading the bipartisan legislation, which had garnered 12 Democratic co-sponsors. The bill provided two years of additional compliance time to ensure the controls that are needed actually can be fulfilled — a common-sense solution. The bill further provided that biomass residuals are regulated as fuels, which traditionally has been the case and EPA has stated was its intent — another common-sense solution. Finally, the bill stated the rules should be achievable — is this really an argument?

Wild claims don’t help the public discourse if true results are desired. Collins has

a long track record of representing the interests of Mainers and that is only bolstered by her leadership on this issue.

Those who decry the bill would delay Boiler MACT rules indefinitely just aren’t listening and haven’t paid attention. These rules have been stalled for years or even decades already because of the overreach of special interest groups and activist courts. EPA’s excessive offering in 2010 delayed the benefits of having such rules for nearly two years, but that is not mentioned by those with an ax to grind.

The more we are distracted from developing realistic regulations that real-world boilers can meet so that additional protections are put in place, the more delay there is apt to be.

Legislation is not needed to delay Boiler MACT rules — the regulatory process of proposal followed by litigation has provided that result.

We believe in protecting the public health because — you guessed it — we are part of the public as well. Furthermore, Collins realizes that protecting public health in a way that also protects jobs is a better result.

Collins put forth a bill that would try to bring a definite conclusion to this process and deliver the business and legal certainty that make possible protection of public health.

We are an industry of people — nearly 18,000 strong in Maine alone. We work to provide a decent life for our family and produce products used by all. We want clean air to breathe and an opportunity to make our living. We don’t need more inflammatory rhetoric; we need the kind of results the senator’s bill would provide. Collins has done and is doing the right thing for our state and our nation.

Keith Van Scotter is president and CEO of Lincoln Paper & Tissue. Mark Gardner is president and CEO of Sappi Fine Paper-North America. Mike Jackson is president and CEO of Verso Paper.

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