- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week announced it would postpone the compliance date by two years for new effluent limitations guidelines for coal plants issued in 2015.
- Set in place under the Obama administration, the rules aimed to reduce toxic discharges by 1.4 billion pounds annually, targeting toxic heavy metals released from coal-fired power plants into lakes and rivers.
- Conservation groups decried the move, saying the rule is designed to keep arsenic, lead, mercury, and boron from being dumped into local waterways.
A month after informing a U.S. Appeals Court that the EPA would conduct a rulemaking and possibly rewrite the rule, Administrator Scott Pruitt has gone ahead and delayed implementation by two years.
“Today's final rule resets the clock for certain portions of the agency's effluent guidelines for power plants, providing relief from the existing regulatory deadlines while the agency revisits some of the rule's requirements," Pruitt said in a statement.
The EPA's rule postpones the earliest compliance dates for the best available technology economically achievable (BAT) effluent limitations, from Nov. 1, 2018 to Nov. 1, 2020.
EPA's statement added that "at this time" the agency does not intend to conduct a rulemaking that would potentially revise BAT effluent limitations and pretreatment standards in the 2015 rule for fly ash transport water, flue gas mercury control wastewater, and gasification wastewater, or any of the other requirements.
Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, in a statement called Pruitt's decision "unconscionable from a public health — and common sense — perspective."
"We will take immediate action on this illegal decision and do everything we can to inform the public of exactly what Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt are doing to their water," Hitt said.
When EPA issued the rules in 2015, the agency estimated about 12% of almost 1,100 steam electric power plants in the United States would need to be modernized to comply.