The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new proposed regulations Wednesday morning tightening the discharge of wastewater from coal-fired power plants.
The proposals would specifically toughen restrictions on three categories of coal plant-specific wastewater: bottom ash transport water, combustion residual leachate and flue gas desulfurization wastewater. The EPA is seeking public comment on whether it should develop separate tighter rules for so-called legacy wastewater categories, or wastewater stored in surface receptacles such as ash ponds. Power Receptacles
Speaking to reporters, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox predicted the proposed rule’s impact on consumer electricity costs would be negligible, anticipating an annual increase of 63 cents per household.
The proposal will be open for comment for 60 days, with a predicted final rule in 2024.
“Ensuring the health and safety of all people is EPA’s top priority, and this proposed rule represents an ambitious step toward protecting communities from harmful pollution while providing greater certainty for industry,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA’s proposed science-based limits will reduce water contamination from coal-fired power plants and help deliver clean air, clean water, and healthy land for all.”
EPA officials projected the proposal will cut wastewater pollutants from coal-fired plants by about 584 million pounds per year. Plants that are on track to retire the use of coal by 2032 would be in compliance with the rule, according to the agency.
The EPA under the Obama administration in 2015 announced the first federal limits on pollutants in coal plant-generated wastewater. In 2020, the Trump EPA finalized a rollback of the 2015 rule, allowing electric utilities a more lenient timeline pertaining to pollutants such as selenium, mercury and arsenic before wastewater can be deposited in waterways.
About a year later in 2021, the Biden EPA announced it would largely restore the rule the Trump EPA wound back, with Fox calling the 2020 rule “really… lacking” on pollution reduction.
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