U.S. EPA Proposes New Wastewater Discharge Limits for Coal-Fired Power Plants

On Wednesday, March 8, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed more stringent effluent limitations guidelines and standards for coal-fired power plants, which it estimates will cost $200 million annually while reducing pollutant discharges by approximately 584 million pounds per year. The proposed guidelines and standards update those published in 2015 and 2020 and focus on limiting the migration of toxic metals such as selenium, mercury, and arsenic to drinking water, recreational water, and aquatic life from the following types of wastewaters generated by coal-fired power plants: flue gas desulfurization wastewater, bottom ash transport water, and combustion residual leachate. The proposal includes additional standards for legacy wastewaters previously discharged to surface impoundments.

Relatedly, EPA also published a direct final rule extending the time for coal-fired power plants to opt in to less-stringent wastewater discharge standards provided the plants permanently stop burning coal by 2028. The proposed rule is subject to a 60-day comment period, and EPA is conducting two virtual public hearings, on April 20 and 25, 2023, to discuss the rule and present further testimony.

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