EPA Finalizes Power Plant Effluent Limitation Guidelines that Save Money and Reduce Pollution
WASHINGTON (August 31, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced final revisions to specific effluent guidelines and standards for “steam electric” power plants. The final rule revises a 2015 Obama-era regulation by leveraging newer, more affordable pollution control technologies and taking a flexible, phased-in implementation approach. As a result, the new rule will save the U.S. power sector approximately $140 million annually while reducing pollution by nearly a million pounds per year over the 2015 rule.
“EPA’s revised steam electric effluent guidelines shows President Trump’s commitment to advancing American energy independence and protecting the environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Newer, more affordable pollution control technologies and flexibility on the regulation’s phase-in will reduce pollution and save jobs at the same time.”
“President Trump and his Administration understand that protecting our water quality doesn’t have to destroy jobs and raise electric rates” said U.S. Congressman David McKinley (WV-01). “These revisions to the Steam Electric Effluent Limitation Guidelines will actually reduce more pollution the Obama-era rule, while reducing compliance costs and allowing for more flexibility. This is just the latest example of the Trump Administration’s commitment to promoting American energy while protecting public health.”
The agency’s final Steam Electric Reconsideration rule revises requirements for two waste streams from steam electric power plants: flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash (BA) transport water. Key changes to the 2015 rule include:
- Changing the technology-basis for treatment of FGD wastewater and BA transport water.
- Establishing new compliance dates.
- Revising the voluntary incentives program for FGD wastewater.
- Adding subcategories for high-flow units, low-utilization units and those that will cease the combustion of coal by 2028 and finalizing requirements that are tailored to facilities in these subcategories.
The agency considered input from a broad variety of stakeholders in developing the final rule and considered a wide range of data, information, and stakeholder input. The agency also updated its industry profile based on more recent data, conducted a limited information request, and collected voluntarily-provided sampling data.
For more information on EPA’s final Steam Electric ELG Reconsideration rule, see: https://www.epa.gov/eg/2020-steam-electric-reconsideration-rule.
Under the Clean Water Act, EPA establishes regulations that apply to categories of industrial wastewater dischargers. Known as Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Pretreatment Standards (ELGs), these regulations are technology-based and protect public health and the environment by limiting wastewater discharges into surface waters and wastewater treatment plants.
In 2015, EPA issued a rule that established new ELGs for the nation’s steam electric power plants. That rule was subject to legal challenge and the agency received two petitions for administrative reconsideration, including one from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. In response, EPA agreed to reconsider the ELGs for two waste streams and undertook a rulemaking that changed the earliest compliance date in the 2015 rule from Nov. 1, 2018, to Nov. 1, 2020, to allow for reconsideration of the regulatory provisions.