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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule that would significantly harm the existing infrastructure that manages scrap tires as well as reverse two decades of environmental cleanup success, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA).
After decades of EPA-sanctioned use as a supplemental industrial fuel, EPA is proposing now to declare whole scrap tires a solid waste. The new designation would require facilities using whole tire-derived fuel (TDF) to add costly new emission controls that would not be required to burn traditional, less efficient fuels. Instead of this option, many TDF users, likely will opt to stop using TDF in favor of more costly, less efficient and higher emitting traditional fossil fuels, including coal. This will likely result in a dramatic reduction of TDF use while driving tens of millions of scrap tires back to landfills, stockpiles and illegal dumping sites.
At the same time, EPA will still allow the use of processed scrap tires to be used as fuel only if most of the steel content is removed, which would add costs to TDF use for facilities such as cement kilns, and increase the amount of energy needed and air pollutants emitted to supply TDF to these facilities. Steel content in tires does not affect overall emissions when consumed as TDF. Instead, the steel is used as a raw material in the manufacture of cement.
"EPA's proposed regulatory scheme would devastate the tire-derived fuel market in the U.S. which will ripple across the entire scrap tire market infrastructure," said Tracey Norberg, RMA senior vice president. "Worse, the proposal will drive scrap tires back to stockpiles and illegal tire dumps after two decades of success in cleaning up stockpiles and promoting safe, viable, effective markets for scrap tires."
Scrap tire management is an environmental success story in the U.S. In 1990, more than one billion tires were stockpiled across the country while only 11 percent of annually generated scrap tires were reused. Today, fewer than 100 million tires remain stockpiled and nearly 90 percent of annually generated scrap tires are reused. Each year, about 300 million scrap tires are generated in the U.S. Of those, about 52 percent are used as TDF in the cement industry, pulp and paper mills and by some utility and industrial boilers.
In comments filed today, RMA said that EPA does not have the legal authority to declare TDF as a "solid waste" instead of a fuel. TDF has a long history as a fuel, which is recognized by EPA. The agency's own data indicates that the combustion of TDF, whether whole or minimally processed without removal of metal beads, not only provides better fuel value than coal (12,000 - 16,000 Btu/lb) but also results in comparable or even lower emissions than coal combustion.
"EPA's proposal turns common sense on its head and would harm the environment while causing potentially thousands of jobs to be lost in the scrap tire industry," Norberg said.
More tire stockpiles increases the risk of fire and mosquito infestation. Unlike the controlled, extreme heat combustion when TDF is used as a fuel, a burning pile of scrap tires can cause considerable environmental harm. Such fires can burn for days or weeks. Stockpiled tires also collect rainwater which then becomes an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry diseases.
RMA advocated that EPA should consider TDF an historical fuel, regardless of whether the scrap tires have been discarded, which would allow states to continue to regulate those scrap tires not used as TDF under state waste management regulations. Alternatively, RMA indicated it supported an approach initially outlined by EPA in January 2009 that would have allowed annually generated scrap tires to be continue to be used as a fuel but stockpiled scrap tires would be considered "discarded" and therefore be a solid waste subject to new emission controls if combusted.
"EPA should reconsider this deeply flawed, anti-environment, anti-business and anti-common sense proposal," Norberg said.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association is the national trade association for the rubber products industry. Its members manufacture various rubber products, including tires, hoses, belts, seals, molded goods, and other finished rubber products. RMA is a leading organization in scrap tire management public policy issues. Every two years, RMA issues a detailed, scrap tire market report that explores all aspects of current scrap tire market trends, regulations and other data. Comments from Rubber Manufacturers Association are available on the association's Web site at www.rma.org.