Conventional Pollution Is Still Where It’s At: EPA Releases the Power Plant MACT Rule

If anyone had any doubts about the significance of the conventional pollutant regulations that EPA would be rolling out, even in the absence of a full cap-and-trade program for GHG, Wednesday’s release of EPA’s revised power plant MACT proposal should go a long way towards eliminating those doubts. As most readers know, the rule replaces the Bush-era MACT rule that would have created a trading program.

The rule poses a problem for critics of EPA. While arguments can be made about the feasibility of some of the standards and the cost to comply, they cannot credibly allege that it is a back-door effort to regulate coal out of existence. The rule is required by statute and the courts already rejected EPA’s attempt to implement a trading program for mercury.

Apparently, EPA acknowledges that this rule will result in the shut-down of approximately 10 GW of coal-fired capacity, though EPA is taking the position that most of that capacity would shut down for other reasons.

As to substance, the rule is too long – the currently available version weighs in at 946 pages – to describe here. EPA has a reasonably helpful summary, though it doesn’t describe the actual standards. Suffice it to say that, given the absence of a trading program, and the imposition of very low emission standards for mercury and PM (or non-mercury metals), control technology will be necessary to comply with the standards. I don’t think that there’s any such thing as low mercury or low PM coal. The days of uncontrolled coal units are coming to an end.

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