Groups urge EPA to act quickly on review tied to coal/oil-fired units

The American Public Power Association and other parties including the Edison Electric Institute and the National Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives have joined together in asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to complete its “Residual Risk and Technology Review,” or RTR, for coal- and oil-fired utility steam generating units as quickly as possible.

The July 10 letter to EPA Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum notes that the federal agency has indicated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit its intent to address the EPA’s final supplemental finding for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule in which EPA determined that it was appropriate and necessary to regulate coal- and oil-based power plants under Clean Air Act (CAA) section 112.

EPA’s supplemental finding followed a Supreme Court decision in which the court held that EPA must consider costs in evaluating whether it is appropriate and necessary to regulate.

The supplemental finding was subsequently challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the litigation has been placed in abeyance. The EPA is evaluating how it plans to proceed.

The letter said that since the MATS rule became effective in 2012, it is estimated that the owners and operators of coal- and oil-based electric generating units have spent more than $18 billion to comply.

These investments, parallel state requirements, other CAA programs, and nonenvironmental drivers have reduced mercury emissions by nearly 90 percent over the past decade, the Association and the other parties noted.

“Given this investment and these emissions reductions, regulatory and business certainty regarding regulation under CAA section 112 is critical — many of these same units are part of ongoing rate reviews regarding the generating fleet operated by investor-owned electric companies. In the case of public power utilities and rural electric cooperatives (even those that are rate regulated by state commissions), compliance costs are directly borne by their customers,” the letter said.

To provide this certainty, EEI, the Association, NRECA, and the other signatories to the letter asked EPA to complete the statutorily mandated RTR for power plants as expeditiously as possible. “We believe a complete and robust RTR will recognize the capital investments already made for compliance and will allow the industry to continue full implementation of the MATS rule, which was completed in April 2016,” the Association and the other parties said.

“It is important to note that all covered plants have implemented the regulation and that pollution controls — where needed — are installed and operating,” the letter said.

The Association and the other parties urged the EPA to move forward with an RTR for power plants under CAA section 112 and to leave the underlying MATS rule in place and effective.

“We also urge EPA to consider potential technical revisions to MATS — such as considering whether performance tests could be performed less frequently if units are running less frequently — while still ensuring that the standards are being achieved. We believe this approach can provide the regulatory and business certainty our members need as they continue to provide safe, reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean energy to their customers,” the letter went on to say.

Joining the Association, EEI and NRECA in signing the letter were the Clean Energy Group, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers & Helpers, and the Class of ’85 Regulatory Response Group.