Powering Strong Communities

APPA Voices Concerns About EPA Proposed Rule Tied to Plant Emissions

The American Public Power Association has concerns about the legal basis and technical underpinnings of an Environmental Protection Agency proposed rule that would amend the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Coal- and Oil-fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units Residual Risk and Technology Review.

This regulation is known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS RTR.

In particular, APPA said it is concerned about the agency’s analysis of the filterable particulate matter and mercury baselines, on which the proposed limits are founded, the removal of compliance measure flexibilities, and the assumptions in EPA’s regulatory impact analysis.

“We believe EPA’s decision to affirm the robust and technically sound residual risk analysis concluded in 2020 is well supported. We also support EPA’s analysis to retain the current mercury standard for bituminous coal units and non-lignite units,” APPA said in the June 23 comments. The acid gas and organic hazardous air pollutant work practice standard should also be affirmed, as proposed, the trade group said.

APPA noted that public power utilities “continue to be dedicated to clean air in our communities and the protection of the environment. Our members have made significant investments to reduce emissions and become compliant with the suite of air regulations that EPA has promulgated over the last ten years.”

Many members “continue to pay for those environmental compliance investments through loan obligations. For these reasons, APPA members have a significant stake in the revisions proposed in this rulemaking, which will have a significant financial impact on our members.”

APPA said that despite warnings about the nation’s grid reliability, “EPA proceeded with releasing an unparalleled suite of environmental regulations impacting the power sector. Heedless of major air quality strides, these rulemakings propose costly emissions reductions that EPA projects to cause further fossil fuel retirements. The MATS RTR is part of EPA’s portfolio, directly affecting fossil generation assets that power America’s cities and municipalities. Public power entities require time and resources to pivot to EPA’s environmental policy agenda while maintaining safe, affordable, and reliable power,” the trade group said.

EPA released the proposed rule “at a time when fossil fuel-fired electric generating units are contending with significant rulemakings that will create a sizeable cumulative cost burden on the industry in a short time period, most by 2028,” APPA said.

The costs of the proposed rule should be considered as required by Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, APPA argued.

“It is crucial for EPA to evaluate the overall regulatory context. The burden of environmental compliance on municipalities and other public power entities and their customers is cumulatively affected by the compliance timelines of these concurrent rulemakings. Entities with limited resources require time to triage environmental compliance costs.”

EPA uses the MATS RTR process to justify substantial changes to the MATS rule, far beyond what Congress directed in Section 112(d)(6) of the Clean Air Act, APPA said.

“To technically justify these changes, EPA made choices to skew the filterable particulate matter and mercury baselines, which the proposed lower limits hinge,” the group said. “Next, EPA went beyond the health and technology reviews requirements by proposing to reduce the MATS rule’s compliance measure flexibilities and created technical challenges with proposed changes to monitoring provisions. Some of the proposed requirements will even increase fossil fuel emissions.”

EPA also “makes unrealistic assumptions in the proposed rule’s regulatory impact analysis that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will fuel a dramatic energy transition in only seven years,” APPA said.

APPA applauded EPA’s decision to “affirm the robust and technically sound residual risk analysis concluded in 2020.”

Although the technology review is a separate analysis, CAA Section 112(d)(6) statutory considerations, such as cost, must be viewed in the context of the lack of an unacceptable health risk or adverse environmental effects posed by the covered EGUs, the group said.

EPA’s benefit-cost analysis “for this regulatory proposal does not factor in any air toxics-related avoided health impacts as benefits of the proposed regulatory changes. APPA urges EPA to place more weight on the cost impacts, reliability considerations, and practical challenges this proposed rule presents.”

APPA noted that the current MATS rule protects overburdened communities from unacceptable health or environmental effects.

In the comments, the group asks EPA to take a number of steps to reconsider and revise its approach in the proposed rule.

Among other things, APPA urged EPA to correct the flawed fPM baseline to accurately account for current EGU emissions and fPM control device capabilities and retain many of the monitoring compliance options.

It also asked for “consideration of public power entities as a unique set of generators with special cost sensitivities, human resource limitations, financing, project timing, and reliability characteristics.”