Dazed and Confused: Alternative fuels and the CISWI definitions rule

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Courtesy of All4 Inc.

As discussed in ALL4’s December 2008 issue of 4 The Record, the use of alternative and non-traditional fuels for heat and power generation is on the rise, an increase that can be attributed to the price surge and volatility of traditional fossil fuels, as well as to a general desire to use more environmentally friendly materials to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Alternative fuels have been successfully permitted and are being effectively used on a consistent basis as fossil fuel substitutes at numerous public, commercial, and industrial manufacturing facilities. However, a Court decision in June 2007 initiated a series of events that will likley impact how facilities that utilize alternative or non-traditional fuels are regulated under the Clean Air Act (CAA). Any facility that currently burns non-hazardous alternative or non-traditional fuel, or is considering the introduction and use of a non-hazardous alternative fuel in an on-site combustion device, will benefit from an understanding of the history, approach, and air quality implications of current U.S. EPA regulatory developments. Non-hazardous alternative or non-traditional fuels include, but are not limited to: biomass, construction and demolition material, scrap tires, scrap plastics, spent solvents, coal refuse, waste water treatment sludge, or used oil.

On December 1, 2000, U.S. EPA issued the Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incineration Rule (CISWI Rule), which established emission standards for CISWI units pursuant to Section 129 of the Clean Air Act (CAA). In response to petitions filed by several environmental groups, U.S. EPA granted a motion for reconsideration and filed a motion for
voluntary remand, which was issued on September 6, 2001.

On February 17, 2004, U.S. EPA solicited comments on several key definitions in the CISWI Rule including “solid waste,” “commercial or industrial waste,” and “CISWI unit.” U.S. EPA then issued the CISWI Definitions Rule on September 22, 2005 after review and consideration of the public comments received.

In the September 22, 2005 CISWI Definitions Rule, a “CISWI unit” was defined as “any combustion unit that combusts commercial or industrial waste (as defined in this subpart).” The CISWI Definitions Rule further defined “commercial or industrial waste” as “solid waste (as defined in this subpart) that is combusted at any commercial or industrial facility using controlled flame combustion in an enclosed, distinct operating unit: whose design does not provide for energy recovery (as defined in this subpart); or is operated without energy recovery (as defined in this subpart).” This definition captured only waste that was combusted at facilities that did not recover thermal energy for a useful purpose from the combustion of the material and therefore restricted the applicability of the CISWI Rule. For example, boilers, process heaters, kilns, and other units burning those types of materials that used the energy from combustion were not CISWI units.

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