April 17, 2017 – On April 12, 2017 EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt responded to multiple requests from impacted parties to reconsider the Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category, commonly referred to the ELG requirements. In taking this step, EPA is placing a stay on the deadlines for compliance with the 2015 regulations finalized during the previous administration. The ELG rules would have required electric utilities with coal fueled power plants to make massive investments in water treatment facilities or convert from wet handling systems to dry handling of CCRs. Many utilities would likely have chosen shutting down good quality power generating units or plants that have been in compliance with existing wastewater discharge permits for decades.
EPA responded to petitions from the Utility Water Act Group (UWAG) and to the US Small Business Administration (SBA) and indicated that a review of the regulatory program will be initiated. In a letter addressed to Virginia Governor McAuliffe, who serves as Chairman of the National Governor’s Association, Administrator Pruitt highlights the fact that there are “…flexibilities available under the 2015 Final Rule for States and EPA Regional Offices that issue National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.” The existing NPDES regulations have been in place for decades and have led to continuous improvements in water quality. Each power plant that discharges wastewater to streams operate under NPDES permits and have played an important role in assuring that plant discharges are safe and compliant with the water quality standards for their receiving streams. EPA’s action reflect an important recognition that the rules finalized in 2015 were overly restrictive without justifiable improvements in stream water quality.