Coal Tattoo

EPA to crack down on toxic water from power plants


Wow — talk about quick responses … just yesterday, the Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project said they were filing a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. EPA to try to force the agency to set limits on toxic water discharges from coal-fired power plants.

And boom, a day later, EPA announced this morning that it’s going to do just that.

EPA data shows that coal plants discharge millions of pounds of toxic pollutants like arsenic, mercury, selenium, and lead each year. Yet existing federal rules, which have not been revised since 1982, fail to set any limits on these metals discharges, which can leach into local water supplies and contaminate streams.

As the environmental groups said in their press release:

Toxic metal discharges from coal plants pose a serious threat to public health and the environment, which is why the Clean Water Act requires EPA to complete a review of the federal rules for power plant discharges each year, and revise the rules to meet the requirements of the Act when appropriate. Despite recognizing a “relatively high estimate of potential hazard or risk” the EPA has continued to do no more than “study” the discharges for 15 years. No new rules have been proposed by EPA to date.

OK … so EPA hasn’t really acted that quickly, having taken 26 years (so far). Environmental groups would like to see EPA announce a deadline for publishing final rules on this issue.

Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said:

EPA should have limited these discharges decades ago as the law requires. EPA needs to stop kicking the can down the road and set a date for regulation. We are confident that Lisa Jackson will do the right thing.