With a series of new rules expected in the coming days, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will move to weaken the 2015 regulation that would have strengthened inspection and monitoring at coal plants, lowered acceptable levels of toxic effluent and required plants to instal new technology to safeguard water supplies from contaminated ash.
The EPA will relax some of those requirements and exempt a significant number of power plants from any of the requirements.
The move is part of a series of deregulatory efforts by the Trump administration aimed at extending the lives of old, coal-fired power plants.
Coal ash, the residue produced from burning coal, was dumped for years in holding areas near power plants, largely without regulation, but it came to the public’s attention after spills in North Carolina and Tennessee sent mercury, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals from the ash into water supplies.
Energy analysts said the administration’s latest gambit to bolster the industry would not save it from its long decline.
A spokesman for the EPA did not respond to a request for comment.
Around 1.1 million Americans live within three miles of a coal plant that discharges pollutants into a public waterway, according to the EPA.
One person familiar with the EPA’s current plans said the agency intended to say that the new rule would remove more pollutants than the Obama-era regulation. That assertion is based on an analysis that assumes about 30 per cent of power plants will voluntarily choose to instal more rigorous technology.
The new rule also will confine the areas that utilities must measure for leakage, according to a second person.
Power plants were originally required to start complying with the requirements by as early as November 2018, but Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s first EPA administrator, postponed compliance until 2020.
Environmental activists said they intended to challenge the rollbacks in court.
The New York Times
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