Manufacturers of large and small boilers got a reprieve last month when a federal judge ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency must extend by 30 days to February 21, its deadline to issue emission standards for the boilers as well as certain incinerators. The EPA, which had hoped for a longer extension, issued a statement saying it was "disappointed" but would work to meet the new deadline.

The EPA had proposed new rules last spring, but after public comment, which ended last August, and more data, the agency requested more time for further review before issuing final rules. The rules, which were to regulate toxic pollutants, such as mercury, soot and cadmium that are known to cause health problems, were to be practical for equipment makers to implement. The rules would go into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

At issue are the rules' scope and coverage, as well as how the different types of boilers should be categorized. The EPA had filed a motion with the federal district court asking for the extension to allow time to evaluate the new information and to finalize the rules.

"The standards will be significantly different than what EPA proposed in April 2010," the EPA's statement says. "The agency believes these changes still deserve further public review and comment and expects to solicit further comment through a reconsideration of the rules. Through the reconsideration process, EPA intends to ensure that the rules will be practical to implement” by the required deadline.

Boilers use natural gas, coal, wood, oil or other fuels to produce steam, which is used to produce heat for a process, comfort or electricity. Some incinerators get rid of waste by burning it, while others recover energy during the process.

According to the EPA, boilers and solid waste incinerators are closely related because frequently, one may be considered similar to the other based on the material they burn.

The EPA is proposing to define the non-hazardous secondary materials that would be considered solid waste and those that would be considered fuel. By doing this, there would be a way to determine whether a material can be burned in a boiler or whether it must be burned in a solid waste incinerator.