EPA Announces Proposed Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for Steam Electric Power Plants
Apr 22, 2013
On April 19, 2013, EPA signed a notice of proposed rulemaking to revise the technology-based effluent limitations guidelines and standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category (40 CFR 423). The proposal, which updates standards that have been in place since 1982, would set the first federal limits on the levels of toxic metals associated with certain steam electric power generation processes and byproducts, including flue gas desulfurization (FGD), fly ash, bottom ash, flue gas mercury control, and gasification of fuels such as coal and petroleum coke. Additionally, EPA is considering establishing best management practices that would apply to surface impoundments containing coal combustion residuals (e.g., ash ponds, FGD ponds). EPA also announced its intention to align this Clean Water Act rule with a related rule for coal combustion residuals (“coal ash”) under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Four Preferred Alternatives
In the proposal, EPA identifies four preferred alternatives for regulation of discharges from existing sources larger than 50 megawatts. The alternatives differ in the number of waste streams covered and the size of the units controlled, as well as the stringency of controls required. For example, under one alternative, EPA would establish Best Available Technology Economically Achievable (BAT) for waste-streams that include:
• “Zero discharge” effluent limit for all pollutants in fly ash transport water and wastewater from flue gas mercury control systems;
• Numeric effluent limits for mercury, arsenic, selenium and total dissolved solids in wastewater discharges from gasification processes;
• Effluent limits for bottom ash transport water and combustion residual leachate from landfills and surface impoundments that are equal to the current Best Practicable Control Technology Currently Available (BPT).
The proposed rule would also establish New Source Performance Standards for all generating units that are new sources, as well as pretreatment standards for generating units that discharge to Publicly Owned Treatment Works.
The public comment period will be open for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The Agency is under a consent decree to take final action by May 22, 2014, and any new requirements would be phased in between 2017 and 2022.
More information on the proposed rule is available at http://water.epa.gov/scitech/wastetech/guide/steam-electric/proposed.cfm.
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