EPA agrees to reconsider power plant wastewater discharge rule

The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to reconsider a final rule issued by the federal agency in 2015 that regulates wastewater discharges from steam electric power plants.

At issue is a EPA rule, “Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category,” which was finalized in late 2015.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy and the Utility Water Act Group recently filed petitions with the EPA seeking reconsideration and an administrative stay of the final rule’s provisions. The American Public Power Association is a member of the Utility Water Act Group.

Both petitions raised concerns that the 2015 rule imposed unreasonable costs and lacked scientific support.

In response to the petitions, on April 12, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said that the federal agency would reconsider the effluent limitation guidelines, or ELG, for the power sector.

“After considering your petitions, I have decided that it is appropriate and in the public interest to reconsider the rule,” Pruitt said in a letter to the SBA and attorneys for the Utility Water Act Group. Pruitt noted “This letter does not address the merits of, or suggest a concession of error on, any issue raised in the petitions.”

EPA is moving to issue an administrative stay of the compliance dates in the rule that have not yet passed, pending judicial review pursuant to Section 705 of the Administrative Procedures Act.

The deadlines that will be stayed are the best available technology limits and pretreatment standards for fly ash transport water, bottom ash transport water, flue gas desulfurization wastewater, flue gas mercury control wastewater and gasification wastewater.

A pre-published Federal Register notice says the agency will stay the rule’s deadlines, the first of which is Nov. 1, 2018 and delay the rule’s compliance dates pending judicial review. The stay of the rule’s deadlines becomes effective upon publication in the Federal Register.

During the reconsideration phase, the EPA will conduct a notice and comment rulemaking with respect to staying the effective dates and/or the compliance dates of the ELG rule.

The ELG rule has been challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Southwestern Electric Power Co., et al. v. EPA).

With the reconsideration, the EPA will ask the court for a 120-day (until Sept. 12, 2017) abeyance of the ongoing litigation over the rule.  At the end of the 120 days, the agency intends to inform the court if there are portions of the rule, if any, that the EPA may seek to remand after consideration of the petitions.

Reposted with permission from Public Power Daily

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