Wave Of EPA Regulations Could Overshadow New Pollution Rule

(NASDAQ 7-10-2010) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a major set of power-plant air-pollution rules this week, but even more far- reaching regulations are in the works.
Within the next several months, the EPA is expected to develop new rules to reduce mercury and hazardous air pollutants, while also creating standards for coal ash.
"This regulatory train wreck will have a big impact on the power sector," said Dan Riedinger, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute.
This week, the EPA announced new air pollution standards for power plants in 31 states and the District of Columbia, know as the "Transport Rule." The rules aim to limit pollution that drifts from upwind states into neighboring downwind states. Ohio coal plants, for example, are a cause of air pollution in Maryland.
Some people in the power industry said the compliance deadlines in 2012 would be too difficult to meet, since pollution standards often require the installation of costly technology that takes months--and sometimes years--to put in place.
Some environmental groups, meanwhile, said EPA failed to require adequate cuts in pollution. While the Transport Rule goes beyond a previous set of standards, some environmental groups said they wanted further reductions.
The Transport Rule would cut sulfur-dioxide emissions by an additional 1 million tons and nitrogen-oxide emissions by 100,000 tons, and also would limit inter-state trading of pollution allowances, according to EPA.
Some industry officials and environmentalistshowever, say the Transport Rule will not be nearly as contentious as other air-pollution standards that are coming down the pike.
"I think it's fair to say that this rule does not, by itself, work a dramatic shift in clean-up responsibilities for the affected plants," said David Baron, a managing attorney at Earthjustice.
Among the rules the EPA is expected to craft in coming months is a second version of its Transport Rule, which is expected to impose even tighter standards for ozone-producing nitrogen oxide and could cover more industry sectors.
The EPA is also slated to propose air-toxics standards for coal- and oil-fired power plants by March 2011 after a court struck down its Clean Air Mercury Rule. And the agency is also looking at tighter controls for the disposal of coal ash from power plants.
Even though these measures are likely to be more stringent than the Transport Rule, Washington insiders said they expect a legal challenge to the recently proposed requirements.
"Almost every rule published by EPA is challenged and this one probably will be too," said S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.
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