EPA tweaks utility air toxics rule

Posted: Apr 1, 2013

Written by

Jean Chemnick, E&E
Air toxics

U.S. EPA released tweaks to its final air toxics rule for power plants, as part of a very busy Good Friday regulatory release that also included a long-awaited sulfur emissions rule for gasoline (see related story).

EPA characterized the revision as mostly technical.

The updates to the mercury and air toxics rule would affect only coal- and natural-gas-fired power plants that will be built in the future. It is a response to stakeholder comments filed after the so-called utility MACT rule was published in the Federal Register early last year.

"The updates continue to ensure that the rules will protect all Americans from dangerous pollutants such as mercury," the agency said in a fact sheet accompanying the rule, adding that the new emissions limits for future facilities are "achievable and are consistent with the requirements of the Clean Air Act."

The rule will require plants to employ the same emissions-reduction technologies as the 2012 version of the rule, and it will cost the same as that rule and achieve the same health benefits, the agency said.

The update comes one day after EPA released updates to a performance standard for storage tanks used in oil and gas production, also finalized in 2012.

The tank updates, which will now be subject to 30 days of public comment, would offer producers an additional six months to comply with the new rule.

The agency said it made the change after receiving information that more high-volume storage tanks would be coming online than the agency originally estimated.

Meleah Geertsma, attorney with the Natural Resource Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air Program, said EPA's announcement, while not surprising, was nevertheless disappointing.

She said the group would review the agency's proposed modifications "to determine whether the overall standards for tanks will remain at least as strong as those in the final [New Source Performance Standards] from 2012, which already had significant shortcomings (including a failure to address methane emissions)."

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