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The Biden administration is pushing for a new rule to limit the release of toxic water pollution from coal power plants, which could lead to some plants shutting down or switching to natural gas. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a stronger rule on toxic metals such as arsenic, mercury, and selenium that are released by coal plants, making it more expensive for them to operate. EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced that the proposed restrictions are the strongest limits that the federal government has ever set for wastewater from coal plants. The new rule would require coal power plants to more thoroughly filter toxic metals from their wastewater before releasing it into nearby rivers, streams, and lakes.
The new rule could reduce the discharge of pollutants into the country’s waterways by around 584 million pounds annually. However, the EPA did not provide an estimate of how much complying with the regulation could cost plant operators. They did say that implementing the rule would likely increase electricity costs by 63 cents per household per year. For operators disinclined to spend heavily on coal-fired power generation, the rule offers an alternative pathway. Plant operators can opt to stop burning coal by 2028 in exchange for not having to make significant investments in how they dispose of wastewater.
This new rule is part of the Biden administration’s agenda to toughen regulations governing industrial polluters that benefited from a more permissive environmental regime under the Trump administration. The change also dovetails with the president’s emphasis on fighting Climate change by potentially speeding up the phase-out of coal, which is the single biggest source of planet-warming carbon Pollution.
Some coal plant operators have voiced new interest in retiring their coal-fired generating units, and others did not want to share their plans with the agency. Administration officials offered few specifics about how the change could affect the industry, other than to say that they expect it will lead only one additional coal power plant to shut down. The Trump administration offered operators a similar deal in 2020, but its rule largely exempted plants that planned to shut down or switch to gas by 2028. Environmentalists condemned the rollback as a gift to an industry, citing power plant discharge as the largest source of toxic water Pollution in the nation.
The proposed new rule could potentially lead to more coal power plants shutting down or switching to natural gas. The new rule could also help reduce the discharge of pollutants into the country’s waterways, benefiting poor neighborhoods and communities of color that are disproportionately harmed by Pollution. As consumers, we can help Support this initiative by continuing to push for cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy. We can also reduce our own water usage and Support companies that prioritize sustainable practices. Together, we can make a difference in protecting our planet’s natural resources.
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