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Environmental Blog

  • 30
  • April
  • 2014

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EPA Granted One Last Extension for Power Plant Effluent Limit Rule

Environmentalists and EPA agreed on April 9 to extend the May 22 deadline for the power plant wastewater discharge rule to September 2015. The Effluent Limitation Guidelines for the steam electric power generating category have not been updated in over thirty years. The proposed rule would require a suite of technologies and approaches to address the levels of toxic metals in seven types of waste streams from coal fired and nuclear power plants: (1) flue gas desulfurization, (2) fly ash, (3) bottom ash, (4) flue gas mercury control, (5) combustion residual leachate, (6) nonchemical metal cleaning wastes, and (7) gasification of fuels such as coal and petroleum coke. It highlights four “preferred options” for Best Available Technology Economically Achievable (BAT) that the Agency says would reduce pollutant discharges by up to 2.62 billion pounds annually, and reduce water use by up to 103 billion gallons per year. The four options differ in the number of waste streams covered, size of the units controlled, and stringency of controls. A fact sheet on the proposed rule is available here.

This sixteen-month extension comes in response to last September’s deluge of over 114,000 industry comments challenging nearly every aspect of the Agency’s June 2013 proposed rule. EPA must review the new data and provide responses to issues raised in comments, as well as respond to the concerns that arose during interagency review conducted by the White House Office of Management and Budget. But the extension came at a price. In exchange for the extended deadline, the Agency gave up any future extensions and agreed that the environmentalists may seek an earlier deadline if it misses the December 19 deadline for the related coal ash rule.

A third ruling targeting solid and liquid releases from power plants, the cooling water intake rule, was due for release on April 17, but according to a Department of Justice letter, EPA needs an additional 29 days to complete an Endangered Species Act consultation on the rule. This is the latest of several deadline extensions for the cooling water rule, which is now due by May 16. The rule, proposed in 2011, generally sets a flexible, site specific standard for reducing the entrainment of fish eggs and larvae into cooling water structures but sets a strict nationwide standard for reducing the impingement of live adult fish on the structures. It will require that location, design, construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures reflect the BAT for minimizing adverse environmental impacts. This delay may prompt legal retaliation by environmentalists who have threatened to reopen litigation that led to a consent decree requiring the rule’s issuance.

Posted at 4/30/2014 12:18 PM

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