Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt notified challengers the agency would begin the process of revising a regulation critics say could force more coal-fired power plants to shut down.
Pruitt sent a letter to the Utility Water Act Group and Small Business Administration on Friday notifying them of the decision. That letter was filed in federal court on Monday. EPA also asked the court to delay the case.
“After carefully considering your petitions, I have decided that it is appropriate and in the public interest to conduct a rulemaking to potentially revise (the regulations),” Pruitt wrote, according to The Associated Press.
Pruitt told utilities in April EPA would consider rescinding “Effluent Limitations Guidelines” for coal-fired power plants in response to a petition from Utility Water Act Group. The rule forces utilities to install more equipment to treat wastewater for mercury and other toxic metals.
Environmentalists opposed EPA’s move to undo the regulation, saying it would imperil water quality.The Obama administration finalized the rule in 2015 and it went into effect in January 2016. Utilities have challenged the rule’s legality in court.
“Power plants are by far the largest offenders when it comes to dumping deadly toxics into our lakes and rivers,” Thomas Cmar, a lawyer with Earthjustice, told TheAP.
“It’s hard to believe that our government officials right now are so beholden to big business that they are willing to let power plants continue to dump lead, mercury, chromium and other dangerous chemicals into our water supply,” Cmar said.
Utilities, on the other hand, say the rule is too costly and would end up forcing more coal plants to prematurely retire.
UWAG argued in its petition the rule would “cause negative impacts on jobs due to the excessive costs of compliance – which were grossly underestimated by EPA – and regulatory burdens forcing plant closures.”
EPA estimated the rule would cost utilities $480 million to install new wastewater treatment equipment, but would yield $500 million in public health benefits.
However, UWAG argued EPA underestimated the rule’s costs and withheld records about the rulemaking from utilities who would have to comply with the rule. UWAG estimates the rule could cost up to $2.5 billion a year.
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