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April 22, 2013
EPA to amend steam electric power ELGs
By Amanda Czepiel, JD, Senior Managing Editor

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has signed a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs) and standards for the steam electric power generating category.

These proposed amendments set the first federal limits on the levels of toxic metals in wastewater that can be discharged from power plants and are based on technology improvements in the industry over the last 3 decades. The current ELGs and standards were last updated in 1982 and, according to the EPA, do not adequately address the associated toxic metals discharged to surface waters from facilities in this industry, nor do they reflect the new technologies for generating electric power and implementing air pollution controls over the last 30 years.

The proposed rule would establish new or additional requirements for wastewater streams from the following processes and by-products associated with steam electric power generation:

  • Flue gas desulfurization
  • Fly ash
  • Bottom ash
  • Flue gas mercury control, and
  • Gasification of such fuels as coal and petroleum coke

The rulemaking sets forth four options for regulation of discharges from existing sources. The four options differ in the number of wastestreams covered, the size of the units controlled, and the stringency of the controls that would be imposed. The EPA also estimates different levels of pollutant reduction and costs associated with each option.

According to the EPA, steam electric power plants contribute more than half of the toxic pollutants discharged to water bodies by all industrial categories currently regulated in the nation.  The EPA estimates that its proposed options would annually reduce pollutant discharges by 470 million, to 2.62 billion pounds, and reduce water use by 50 billion, to 103 billion gallons per year, as affected by steam power plants.

INFO: Contact Jezebele Alicea-Virella or call her at 202-566-1755.