Thursday, August 17, 2017

EPA wants to scrap Obama-era rule that limits water pollution from coal-fired power plants

"The Environmental Protection Agency says it plans to scrap an Obama-era measure limiting water pollution from coal-fired power plants. A letter from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt released Monday as part of a legal appeal said he will seek to revise the 2015 guidelines mandating increased treatment for wastewater from steam electric power-generating plants," Michael Biesecker reports for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Coal-fired plants flush wastewater into rivers and lakes, and it generally has traces of highly toxic metals like lead and mercury.

Pruitt's letter was filed with the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, since it is now hearing legal challenges to the wastewater rule. But EPA asked the court to freeze the challenges, since Pruitt is trying to rewrite the standards. He first moved to delay implementation of the new standards in April, spurred by utilities companies that opposed them.

"While that process moves ahead, EPA's existing guidelines from 1982 remain in effect. Those standards were set when far less was known about the detrimental impacts of even tiny levels of heavy metals on human health and aquatic life," Biesecker reports. If the 2015 rule were implemented, the EPA estimates that power plants would produce 1.4 billion fewer pounds of pollution per year. About 12 percent of steam electric power plants would need to spend money on bringing their plants up to compliance with the tougher standards.

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