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APPA to EPA: When assessing rule on effluent guidelines, keep other rules in mind

From the October 1, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published October 1, 2013

By Jeannine Anderson

As it works on its proposed rule on effluents from steam electric power plants, the Environmental Protection Agency should evaluate the cumulative effect that a number of its regulations will have on the industry and on community-owned utilities, APPA told the EPA.

APPA offered that recommendation in comments it filed Sept. 20 on the EPA's proposed effluent limitations guidelines (ELG) for steam electric generating facilities. The proposed rule was announced on April 19 and was published in the Federal Register on June 7.

"The steam electric industry, including public power or community-owned utilities, face a host of rigorous new requirements including several Clean Air Act (CAA) regulations, the Coal Combustion Residuals rule (CCR), the Clean Water Act (CWA) § 316(b) intake aquatic protection structure rule (expected by November 2013), and the greenhouse gas emissions regulations for new and existing power plants," APPA said. The EPA "needs to evaluate the cumulative impact of these regulations as part of its assessment of the proposed effluent guidelines rule."

APPA noted that guidance from the Office of Management and Budget and Executive Order 13563 "require EPA to consider the cumulative effects of regulations and seek to reduce overlapping and inconsistent requirements."

"It is with these executive branch policy directives, in tandem with the Clean Water Act’s historical record on setting Best Available Technology (BAT) considering remaining life of plant and feasibility, that APPA asks EPA to consider APPA’s recommendations," the association said.

Noting that "a significant percentage of electric utilities with coal-fired power plants" are qualified under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act, APPA asked the EPA to consider the SBREFA implications of the effluent limitation guidelines rulemaking. The association said it "disagrees with EPA’s certification in the proposed rule that the proposal will not have a significant economic impact on small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act."

New costs due to the proposed rule (whether for effluent discharge controls or for waste management) might result in increased electricity rates, the association said.

Other recommendations made by APPA include:
•  APPA "prefers Option 1 of EPA’s list of eight options, with very important caveats" as described in its detailed comments, and does not oppose revisions to the existing ELG, which were last revised in 1982;
•  EPA should make no revisions to existing effluent limitation guidelines for plants with less than 100 MW of generating capacity;
•  The final EPA rule "should give a categorical determination of up to eight years for the remaining life of any coal or nuclear power plant, providing the state permit writer with maximum discretion to not require additional control technologies under the effluent limitation guidelines if that plant is expected to retire, be mothballed, or replaced with a combined-cycle natural gas plant or renewables."
•  There should be no effluent limitation guidelines revisions for plants that can demonstrate that, for their treatment by flue gas desulfurization wastewater, chemical precipitation would not be cost-effective;
•  The final rule should impose no additional effluent limitation guidelines requirements on plants that can demonstrate that, because of site- or plant-specific treatment features and conditions, chemical precipitation would be either technically or economically unavailable;
•  EPA should grant permit writers maximum flexibility for plants "that are sitting on a small physical footprint or for those that will retire within eight years of the effective date of the rule";
•  Selenium "should be regulated based upon realistic toxic-weighted pound-equivalent;" and
•  EPA "should not presume that zero liquid discharge or biological systems should be required everywhere just because they have worked very well in some locations."

APPA, which is a member of the Utility Water Act Group, endorsed UWAG's more detailed comments.

Steam electric power plants account for more than half of all toxic pollutants discharged into streams, rivers and lakes from industrial facilities in the United States, according to the EPA. "High exposure to these types of pollutants has been linked to neurological damage and cancer as well as damage to the circulatory system, kidneys and liver," the agency said.

The EPA is under a consent decree to take final action by May 22, 2014.

More information about the effluent limitation guidelines proposal is posted on the EPA's website.



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Senior Vice President, Publishing 
Jeanne Wickline LaBella

Editorial Director
Robert Varela

Editor, Public Power Daily
Jeannine Anderson

Communications Assistant
Fallon W. Forbush

Manager, Integrated Media 
David L. Blaylock

Integrated Media Editor 
Laura D’Alessandro