Environmental Regulation

EPA Runoff Limits Costs Exceed Gains

By Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer Published: July 3rd, 2013

Recently proposed Clean Water Act limits on wastewater discharges from generation facilities could cost electric cooperatives millions of dollars, and more than their environmental benefits, NRECA says.

EPA’s proposed guidelines to limit runoff could affect more than 100 coal units owned by co-ops, NRECA says. (Photo By: Getty Images)

EPA’s proposed guidelines to limit runoff could affect more than 100 coal units owned by co-ops, NRECA says. (Photo By: Getty Images)

The Environmental Protection Agency proposal will particularly affect coal-fired units with wet flue gas desulfurization systems or wet ash handling.

Under a settlement agreement with environmental groups that sued the agency, EPA is required to issue final effluent limitation guidelines for power plants by May 22, 2014.

EPA proposed the guidelines June 7. Despite the proposal’s complexity—it involves eight options for seven separate wastewater streams—EPA is closing the public comment period August 6.

“EPA spent over six years developing this very complex proposal, but is only allowing the public 60 days to comment, significantly less time than the agency has allowed for other, less complicated effluent guideline rulemakings,” said Dorothy Kellogg, NRECA’s senior principal for environment policy. “EPA agreed to a clearly unreasonable rulemaking schedule, yet it’s the industry that’s left with insufficient time to comment.”

NRECA is evaluating the proposals to determine the cost-effectiveness of the proposed standards, as well as the potential economic impact on co-ops, including small distribution co-ops.

The guidelines could affect at least 104 coal-based units with capacity of at least 50 megawatts, according to NRECA. Thirty-eight co-ops own all or part of the units.

Data from 11 G&Ts show capital costs could range from $6.7 million to $123 million under “less stringent options” and $12 million to $363 million under “most stringent options,” NRECA said.

EPA last updated the effluent limitation guidelines in 1982.

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