EPA delays toxic waste rule for power plants

EPA delays toxic waste rule for power plants
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pushing back by two years key deadlines in a 2015 rule limiting toxic water pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The extra two years for compliance, announced Wednesday, are intended to give the EPA time to revise the provisions of the Obama administration regulation, which it said last month it would do. Utilities that operate coal plants had asked for a rollback of the regulation earlier this year.

“Today's final rule resets the clock for certain portions of the agency's effluent guidelines for power plants, providing relief from the existing regulatory deadlines while the agency revisits some of the rule's requirements,” EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump adviser affirms intent to leave Paris deal | Officials report leaks at Superfund site after Harvey | Hurricane Maria now a major storm Overnight Regulation: Trump adviser affirms plans to leave climate deal | FDA to study new cigarette warning labels | DOJ investigating Equifax stock sales Officials report potential spills at Texas Superfund site after Harvey: report MORE said in a statement.

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The delays specifically apply to two provisions in the 2015 regulation that mandated limits or pretreatment for flue gas desulfurization wastewater and bottom ash transport waste, which both come from the burning of coal. 

Power plants would have had to start complying with those requirements by as early as November 2018.

Opponents of the rule had criticized it as part of the Obama administration’s “war on coal,” and said it would cause plant closures.

The Sierra Club slammed the regulatory delay.

"Keeping industrial sludge and foul wastewater from coal plants out of our drinking water supplies shouldn’t be something that should be up for debate, but Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Trump Jr. declines further Secret Service protection: report Report: Mueller warned Manafort to expect an indictment MORE and Scott Pruitt just made it one — solidifying their current role as callous henchmen for billionaire fossil fuel executives with no regard for working families,” Mary Anne Hitt, director of the group’s Beyond Coal campaign, said in a statement.

The agency specifically said it is not delaying, and will not reconsider, other portions of the regulation, including those that apply to fly ash transport water, flue gas mercury control wastewater and gasification wastewater.

The EPA estimated the industry would save between $27.5 million and $36.8 million over the two-year delay.

When it wrote the rule, the Obama administration estimated it would cut 1.4 billion pounds per year of toxic metals like arsenic and mercury from hitting waterways. It was estimated to cost $480 million a year for compliance, with benefits worth up to $566 million.

Since Wednesday’s decision from the EPA is final, environmental groups, Democratic states and others may sue the agency to stop the delay.