Harking back to legislative efforts of a few years ago, Representative John McHugh (R-NY) yesterday introduced legislation that would require significant reductions in emissions of SO2 and NOx, and mercury from power plants. The highlights of the bill include the following:
- No later than two years from enactment, EPA must promulgate regulations requiring that powerplants:
- reduce SO2 emissions by 75% over the Phase II levels contained in the current CAA acid rain program
- reduce NOx emissions by 75% over 1997 levels
- Even aside from the above-described reductions, on the later of 5 years from enactment or 30 years from initial operation, powerplants must meet applicable new source performance standards, or NSPS
- Mercury emissions from coal-fired powerplants will be restricted to 0.6 pounds per trillion Btu. These limits will go into effect:
- As of the date of operation, for facilities beginning operations after December 31, 2010
- As of January 1, 2013, for facilities existing as of December 31, 2010
There is no provision for a cap-and-trade program with respect to mercury. The bill would impose a penalty of $10,000 per ounce on facilities that exceed the mercury limit.
Representative McHugh has said that he hopes to attach the legislation to the climate change bill. I haven’t seen any discussion yet regarding the bill’s prospects, but the fact that it was introduced by a Republican, albeit one from New York, suggests that something like this is at least possible.
To me, the requirement that existing facilities attain NSPS may be the most interesting part of the bill. While the regulated community is diverse, I think that, given sufficient time to meet NSPS, at least some fraction of owners of existing facilities would be willing to do so, if – and it’s a big if – Congress would in return make changes to the NSR/PSD rules so that facility owners would not have to engage in a difficult, expensive, and uncertain NSR review for every conceivable facility modification. Freedom from NSR review in return for compliance with NSPS by a reasonable date certain? That would be an interesting trade-off.