US Senator seeks to halt EPA mercury rule, NMA files suit
Washington (Platts)--16Feb2012/444 pm EST/2144 GMT
The Environmental Protection Agency's new rule to limit mercury
emissions and air toxics from power plants nationwide attracted a push back
Thursday from Capitol Hill and industry, which fears the mandate will drive
up operating costs and compromise reliability.
The National Mining Association filed suit against EPA over its Mercury
and Air Toxics Standards in the US Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia Circuit only hours after the rule was published in the Federal
Register, initiating a 60-day period for opponents to file litigation and
administrative petitions for reconsideration with the agency regarding
concerns about the rule. The rule takes effect April 16.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma filed a joint
resolution of disapproval, S.J. Res. 37, under the Congressional Review Act,
in an effort to stop the rule.
If passed by the Senate, the joint resolution would go the House of
Representatives, which already supports legislation to block EPA from
regulating the power industry. President Barack Obama, however, is unlikely
to sign a resolution to hamper his administration's authority.
A similar resolution, S.J. Res. 27, to overturn another EPA rule to
control interstate soot and smog, known as the Cross-State Air Pollution
Rule, failed in the Senate last November with 56 lawmakers, including six
Republicans, voting against it.
Democrats from states wary of EPA's rules on the power sector should
support his resolution as a means to "stop this regulatory nightmare," Inhofe
"The failure of the United States Senate to rein in the Obama EPA is
having a devastating impact on the pocketbooks of American families and
threatens the jobs and livelihoods of millions of Americans," Inhofe said in
Rural cooperatives fear that the regulation will force them to buy
alternative, low-emission power that will cost significantly more than
coal-fired generation. Co-ops also face competing with large energy companies
for the pollution control equipment and labor required to meet the rule,
according to Glenn English, president of the National Rural Electric
Further, English said EPA used "flawed methodology" to determine the
standards for existing power plants and sets "unachievable" emissions limits
for new power plants.
The rule seeks to prevent 90% of the mercury emissions from coal- and
oil-fired power plants through the use of "maximum achievable control
technology." Current MACT for coal-fired power plants include scrubbers,
baghouses and filters, equipment already commonly used to meet other federal
and state air standards. In addition to mercury, the EPA rule sets numerical
emission limits on the power sector for six air toxics.
EPA estimates that annual compliance with the rule will cost $9.6
billion beginning in 2016.
While the Clean Air Act allows three years for covered sources to meet a
MACT rule, EPA is encouraging state authorities to grant a fourth year. The
agency also provided guidance through its enforcement branch for units
critical to grid reliability to obtain a fifth-year extension.
Still, English said "additional regulatory flexibility on the deadlines
would help not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives protect grid reliability
while meeting their environmental obligations."
Inhofe, the senior Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee, said EPA rule "is designed to kill coal" as a fuel for electric
generation and as a result will hike electricity bills and kill jobs
nationwide. Health benefits from the rule "are virtually nonexistent," he
EPA, however, has said that the rule's pollution-control requirements to
slash mercury, a neurotoxin, and other pollutants will further reduce sulfur
dioxide and particulate matter and prevent thousands of premature deaths and
EPA also said the mercury rule will result in 46,000 temporary
construction jobs and 8,000 long-term jobs in the power sector. The agency
estimates that "more than half of all coal-fired power plants already deploy
pollution-control technologies that will help them meet the proposed
Environmental advocates were pleased EPA was finally moving forward with
rules to cut mercury from power plants. Frances Beinecke, president of the
Natural Resources Defense Council, said the mercury standards "are likely to
be among the Obama administration's most significant environmental
But the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity is pushing for
Inhofe to succeed in derailing the regulations.
"Congressional action is essential to stop this heavy-handed new
regulation by EPA that will needlessly drive up energy prices for all
Americans and destroy jobs," Steve Miller, president and CEO of the coal
--Cathy Cash, email@example.com