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Last week, just before Thanksgiving in the US, the US EPA announced that it is preparing to promulgate over 130 new regulations. 

These regulations are going to virtually eliminate the possibility of building new coal-fired power plants (there is a way through this roadblock, but it involves using sequestration technology that would not be economical). 

Another noticeable power grab is the EPA’s plan to take over the regulation of nearly every body of water in the US.

These new regulations are well beyond Boiler MACT of 2010 and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions permitting requirements of 2011. 

It appears in the long term, the EPA’s goal is to shut down industrial manufacturing in the United States.  If that is not the Agency’s goal, then they show a remarkable lack of understanding of the cost of doing business and being competitive on the world stage.

For our own industry, the path forward, from a regulatory view, is narrow and fraught with dangers.  Supplemental energy generation is going to have to come from natural gas.  Thank goodness for fracking—it came along just in time.

On the wastewater side, expect more mills to convert to anaerobic digesters.  They are compact, relatively small, and eliminate the settling ponds now coming under EPA regulation.  In fact, I expect a “gold rush” mentality towards anaerobic digesters so that settling ponds can be drained before the EPA steps in.

Hopefully, and soon, some common sense will begin to permeate the regulatory world.  When the EPA began business over forty years ago, it was obvious that some regulation was needed.  However, somewhere between those days and now, the pendulum has swung far beyond science and reasonableness.  As an industry, we need to stop appeasing and accommodating and begin to think about drawing lines in the sand if we hope to survive for the long term.

Jim Thompson is Executive Editor of Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at jthompson@taii.com.
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