2 ways EPA did not toughen the power plant air toxics rule

By Sean Reilly | 04/26/2024 01:28 PM EDT

The agency rejected options that would have yielded steeper emissions cuts and applied the rule to a larger fleet of coal-fired facilities.

A coal-fired plant is seen from an apartment complex.

A coal-fired plant in Winfield, West Virginia, is seen in August 2018 from an apartment complex in the town of Poca. EPA on Thursday released a new rule to compel coal plants to cut back emissions of mercury and other air pollutants. John Raby/AP

EPA sidestepped a more severe clampdown on toxic power plant emissions in a rule released Thursday, despite touting expectations of deep cuts in releases of some particularly dangerous air pollutants, according to accompanying records.

A key plank in the new rule, for example, is a stiffer standard projected to eventually slice releases of arsenic, chromium and other hazardous metals by approximately two-thirds.

In the process of crafting the stricter limit, however, EPA staff explored an option that would have yielded an approximately 80 percent cut. In rejecting that path, they cited potentially higher costs and the difficulty of accurately measuring emissions via a new monitoring requirement also contained in the updated regulations.


And while the new rule closes a mercury emissions loophole for a small number of plants that burn a low-grade form of coal known as lignite, EPA balked at calls to also strengthen the current standard for the much larger fleet of all coal-fired generating facilities.