- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued new rules aimed at reducing the discharge of toxic pollutants into waterways caused by coal-fired steam electric power plants, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
- The agency estimated about 12% of the 1,080 steam electric power plants in the United States will need to be modernized to comply with the new rule.
- EPA said the rules would reduce toxic discharge by 1.4 billion pounds annually, as well as reduce water withdrawal by 57 billion gallons per year.
EPA issued new rules this week, saying it will save Americans $463 million a year, pointing to the health benefits of reducing chemical pollutants.
“EPA is setting the first national limits to protect public health and reduce toxic pollutants, including mercury, arsenic, lead and selenium released into America’s waterways by steam electric power plants,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a statement. “These cost-effective, achievable limits will provide significant protections for our children and communities across the country, including minority and low-income communities, from exposure to pollutants that can cause neurological damage in children, cancer, and other serious health problems.”
EPA called the final Steam Electric Effluent Limitation Guidelines "strong but reasonable," and said the rules were based on readily-available technologies and would provide flexibility in implementation through a phased-in approach.
Steam electric plants discharge 65,000 pounds of lead and 3,000 pounds of mercury each year, plus almost 80,000 pounds of arsenic, 225,000 pounds of toxic selenium and more than 30 million pounds of nitrogen, the agency said.
The new requirements do not apply to plants that are oil-fired or have a capacity below 50 MW. The new rule will be effective 60 days after being published in the Federal Register.
Some electrical utilities are taking steps to address the new regulation. Georgia Power just announced it will shutter 29 coal ash ponds to comply with the EPA's just-finalized Coal Combustion Residual Rule as well as the Steam Electric Effluent Limitation Guidelines.