WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Biden-Harris administration announced a proposal on March 8, 2023, that would set stronger limits on wastewater pollutants from coal-fired power plants in the US. Under the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal, the new standards would reduce the discharge of pollutants from the plants by more than 580 million pounds per year.
According to the EPA, the proposed rule would establish more stringent discharge standards for three types of wastewaters generated at coal-fired power plants: flue gas desulfurization wastewater, bottom ash transport water, and combustion residual leachate. The proposed rule addresses wastewater produced by coal-fired power plants in ash ponds and would seek to define these “legacy” wastewaters to evaluate if more stringent discharge standards are needed.
EPA Administrator Michael S. Reagan said that “ensuring the health and safety of all people is EPA’s top priority, and this proposed rule represents an ambitious step toward protecting communities from harmful pollution while providing greater certainty for industry. EPA’s proposed science-based limits will reduce water contamination from coal-fired power plants and help deliver clean air, clean water, and healthy land for all.”
In its press release, the EPA said that the proposal follows through on a pledge to review and assess environmental regulations from the last White House administration and restore some of the standards set prior to changes in certain environmental laws and regulations.
According to the EPA, “coal-fired power plants discharge large volumes of wastewater into waterways such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. The discharges include pollutants such as selenium, mercury, arsenic, nickel, bromide, chloride, and iodide, nutrient pollution, and total dissolved solids. Exposure to these pollutants can harm people and ecosystems through contamination of drinking water sources, recreational waters, and aquatic life.”
The EPA also announced that it will be changing “compliance paths” for certain subcategories of power plants. Coal-power plants that have pledged to stop burning coal by 2028 would not be affected. The EPA announced it will conduct public hearings on the proposed rule on April 20 and April 25, 2023.