On August 31, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, signed the final rule (referred to as the Steam Electric Reconsideration Rule) initially proposed last year to revise the technology-based effluent limitations guidelines and standards (ELGs) for common types of wastewater discharges from electric power generating facilities. This final rule rolls back the Obama-era effluent guidelines 2015 rule, which set the first federal limitations on toxic metal discharges from power plants. EPA touts that the new final rule will significantly reduce after tax compliance costs by $140 million per year.
New effluent standards
The Obama-era 2015 rule set requirements for wastewater streams associated with several processes and by-products of steam electric power generation: flue-gas desulfurization, fly ash, bottom ash, flue-gas mercury control and gasification of fuels such as coal and petroleum coke. However, EPA’s new final rule focuses on revisions to primarily two types: flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash (BA) transport water.