Public Power Group Identifies EPA Rules Ripe for Repeal or Revision

Many regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in recent years are burdensome for electric utilities and have costs that outweigh their benefits, the American Public Power Association told the EPA on May 12.

Among the rules and regulations that the public power group said should be repealed or modified are the Clean Power Plan rules on carbon dioxide for existing power plants and for new, modified and reconstructed plants; effluent limitation guidelines for steam electric power plants; a rule on regional haze; and a rule on coal combustion residuals.

The Association submitted its May 12 comments in response to a Federal Register notice that the EPA published on April 13 following an executive order issued by President Trump on Feb. 28, 2017.

Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” establishes a federal policy “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens.” The order directs federal agencies to establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force to evaluate existing regulations and make “recommendations to the Agency head regarding their repeal, replacement or modification.” The order also directs the task force to seek input from entities significantly affected by federal regulations.

APPA said its members “have extensive experience with burdensome regulations and excessive costs associated with regulatory compliance.” The Association recommended a number of EPA regulations as candidates “for repeal, replacement or modification.” These include:

1)    Climate-related regulations, including final rules the EPA issued in October 2015 limiting CO2 emissions from existing power plants, as well as its regulations on CO2 emissions from new, modified or reconstructed power plants. APPA joined other parties in challenging those rules before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in West Virginia v. EPA, No. 15-1363 (for the rule on existing plants), and North Dakota V. EPA, No. 15-1381 (for the rule on new, modified and reconstructed plants).

The Association said it believes the Clean Power Plan’s rule for existing plants, issued under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, “overreached the EPA’s statutory authority and sought to do too much too quickly.”  The rule would have “created economic inefficiency; imposed inequitably distributed costs on consumers; threatened the reliability of the electricity system; and forced a risky over-reliance on a single fuel — natural gas — to generate electricity,” the Association said.

The public power group is supportive of the EPA’s efforts to review the Clean Power Plan, but said any revised or replacement rule “must be based upon the following principles: (1) a ‘best system of emission reduction’ (BSER) that can be applied within the fence line of an electric generating unit; (2) allow states to make a case-by-case determination for flexible emission limits for certain units; and (3) emission guidelines must account for the remaining useful life of an electric generating unit (EGU).”

The rule on new plants does not set emission limits that adequately justify the benefits or the costs, the Association added. “Any replacement rule should be based on adequately demonstrated ‘best system of emission reduction’ in keeping within the confines of CAA Section 111.”

2)    Revisions to the EPA’s 1999 Regional Haze Rule that the agency issued in January 2017, concerning states’ requirements to meet and implement programs to protect viability in Class I areas under sections 169A and 169B of the Clean Air Act. The final rule, “Protection of Visibility: Amendment to Requirements for State Plans,” or Visibility Rule, addressed regional haze state implementation plans (SIPs) and progress reports during the second planning period (2018-2028) of the regional haze program.

The EPA “should modify the Visibility Rule to make clear that state policy decisions have primacy in implementing the regional haze program,” APPA said. The agency also “should rescind its interpretation of the relationship between Reasonable Progress Goals (RPGs), state’s Long-Term Strategy (LTS) and visibility improvement SIPs,” which is inconsistent with prior guidance, the Association said.

The rule should be revised to “establish a more neutral methodology for setting emission reduction levels that states can realize to meet their reasonable progress goals” while ensuring states “have broad discretion in determining the course for achieving visibility goals,” the Association said.

3)    Effluent Limitation Guidelines and standards for stream electric generating plants, known as the ELG rule, issued by the EPA in late 2015. The rule imposes technology-based standards for the control of wastewater discharges under the Clean Water Act.

The Association recommended that the EPA “modify the ELG rule based upon its effect on jobs, costs that exceed benefits, and lack of transparency of the rule’s underlying data.”

The EPA “should consider revising the ELG rule to allow flexibility to meet the rule’s applicability date, of no later than December 31, 2023, to provide more time for maturation of treatment technology and subsequent pilot testing,” the Association said.

The EPA should exempt small generating units under 400 megawatts, especially as it pertains to bottom ash handling and Flue Gas Desulfurization wastewater, the public power group said, noting that in the preamble of the proposed rule, the EPA had considered a regulatory flexibility option for small plants.

4)    The Association recommended modification and repeal of certain provisions in the Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) rule, issued in April 2015 under the Resource Recovery Conservation Act, “due to the costs imposed by the rule that exceed its benefits.”

In addition, modification is warranted because of the enactment of the Waters Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which established a mechanism for states and the EPA to implement the CCR rule through state or EPA-administered permit programs, the Association said.

The EPA “should modify the CCR rule to allow for tailoring of the rule’s groundwater monitoring and corrective action programs based on site-specific conditions.”

The agency also should extend the CCR rule’s compliance deadlines, in part to “reduce the regulatory burden associated with the coordination between the CCR rule and the ELG rule.”

The Association said it “strongly recommends the Agency continue its efforts to closely coordinate these deadlines considering the regulatory review of both rulemakings.”

In its May 12 comments to the EPA, the Association also commented on a number of other regulations, including: the EPA’s 2009 rule for the mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions; the Cross-State Air Pollution Update Rule; the 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard Notice of Data Availability; the EPA’s 2015 “SSM SIP Call” regarding emissions by affected sources during periods of startup, shutdown, and malfunction, or SSM; the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS rule; emissions standards for reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICE); New Source Performance Standards for stationary gas and combustion turbines; the New Source Review program; the Prevention of Significant Deterioration program; and the Cooling Water Intake Structure Rule.

The full set of comments can be found here.

By Jeannine Anderson, Reposted with permission from Public Power Daily.

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