Coming to a Steam Electric Generating Plant Near You in May 2014 — New Effluent Limitation Guidelines

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Last Friday, EPA announced release of its draft proposal to revise the effluent guidelines and standards for the steam electric power generating industry, last revised in 1982.  The proposal was in conformance with a litigation settlement with environmental groups, which also calls for a final rule by May 22, 2014.

The proposed rule actually sets out four different regulatory options, and they are sufficiently complicated that EPA’s Fact Sheet on the proposal does not even attempt to summarize them.  For that reason, I provide here the Executive Summary of the proposed rule, which does summarize the options.  Very briefly, they are:

Option 3a

Zero discharge limits for fly ash transport water and mercury flue gas control

Numeric limits for mercury arsenic, selenium, and TDS from gasification processes

Numeric limits for copper/iron from nonchemical metal cleaning

Effluent limits for bottom ash transport water and leachate from landfills impoundments

Would apply to coal-fired units great than 50 MW

Option 3b

Numeric limits for mercury, arsenic,  selenium, and intrate-nitrite in FGD wastewater

Would apply to plants with at least 2,000 MW

Otherwise, same as 3a

Option 3

Numeric limits for mercury, arsenic,  selenium, and intrate-nitrite in FGD wastewater

Would apply to units of least 50 MW

Otherwise, same as 3a

Option 4

Zero discharge for bottom ash transport water

Would apply to units of at least 400 MW

Otherwise, same as 3a

For new sources, EPA proposes to establish NSPS, applicable to all facilities, including oil-fired and small coal plants, that would include zero discharge standards for fly ash and bottom ash water, and water from mercury flue gas control systems, as well as numeric standards for a range of other waste streams.

The other notable feature of the proposal is EPA’s explicit statement that it hopes to link the effluent guidelines rule to the development of the coal combustion residual rule.  There is also at least a hint in the proposal that EPA may be leaning towards regulating CCR under Subtitle D of RCRA, rather than under Subtitle C.  Greenwire reported that recyclers of coal ash were “thrilled” by EPA’s statement.  If I were the recyclers, I’d keep my fingers crossed.

Comments are due 60 days following FR publication.