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EPA Finalizes Power Plant Pollution Standards

The EPA has finalized pollution limits for new power plants, setting emissions limits for mercury and toxic air pollutants like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium and cyanide.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards sets limits for mercury emissions at 0.003 pound/GWh, a slightly higher rate than the 0.002 pound/GWh initial limit set in December 2011. In 2012, the agency agreed to review those limits after a challenge by industry. The standards have since been the subject of ongoing lawsuits by companies and counter-suits by nonprofits.

After considering dozens of public comments from industry and environmental groups, the EPA announced the finalized standards last Friday. The finalized rule limits filterable particulate matter emissions from new coal-fired power plants to 0.09 pound/MWh and hydrogen chloride to 0.01 pound/MWh. It restricts sulfur dioxide to 1.0 pound/MWh from coal-fired power plants, and lead to 0.02 pound/GWh.

The standards only apply to future power plants and do not change the types of pollution control technology that plants would install.

According to the agency, the standards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks every year.

Also on March 28, the EPA proposed stricter rules on gasoline and vehicle emissions and updates to the agency’s 2012 performance standards for storage tanks used in oil and natural gas production.

The proposed updates to the oil and gas storage tank standards reflect recent information showing that more higher-volume storage tanks will be coming on line than the agency originally estimated, the EPA says. The updates would also provide storage tank owners and operators additional time to comply with a requirement to reduce volatile organic compound emissions while equipment to reduce those emissions is being manufactured.

EPA will take comment on today’s proposal for 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register and will hold a public hearing if requested.


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