EPA finalizes power plant effluent limitation guidelines

The Environmental Protection Agency on Aug. 31 issued a final rule to reconsider parts of the agency’s 2015 Effluent Limitations Guidelines (ELG) rule.

The agency’s final Steam Electric Reconsideration rule revises requirements for two waste streams from steam electric power plants: flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash (BA) transport water.


In 2015, EPA issued a final rule that set the first federal limits on the levels of toxic metals in wastewater that can be discharged from power plants.

The rule was subject to legal challenge and the agency received two petitions for administrative reconsideration, including one from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy.

In response, EPA agreed to reconsider the ELGs for two waste streams.  

EPA’s 2020 rule contains the final revised regulations for those two waste streams.

EPA said that only those coal fired power plants that discharge bottom ash transport water or FGD wastewater may incur compliance costs under the 2020 final rule.

EPA estimates that 75 plants may incur compliance costs under the final rule, in an industry population of 914 plants.

EPA said that key changes to the 2015 rule include:

  • Changing the technology-basis for treatment of FGD wastewater and BA transport water;
  • Establishing new compliance dates;
  • Revising the voluntary incentives program for FGD wastewater; and
  • Adding subcategories for high-flow units, low-utilization units and those that will cease the combustion of coal by 2028 and finalizing requirements that are tailored to facilities in these subcategories.

The final rule becomes effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Additional information about the final rule is available here.