Coal plant pollution to flow more freely under 2 new proposals

UPDATE: On Thursday, December 19 from 1 p.m.-5 p. m., the Environmental Protection Agency is holding the an online public hearing on its proposal to weaken water pollution safeguards for power plants. The public can also submit written comments by Jan. 21, 2020 to at this link.  EPA’s proposal will harm drinking water sources for communities across the country. 


Today, in a blow to clean water, the Trump administration proposed rollbacks of two crucial rules that limit coal plants’ ability to dump toxic pollution into rivers and lakes and limit how long utilities can use unlined, leaking coal ash pits.

“EPA is taking two giant steps backward in protecting communities and clean water from toxic coal ash pollution,” said Senior Attorney Frank Holleman. “The EPA today announced a dangerous and misguided rollback of decades-overdue protections against toxic wastewater pollution of our rivers and lakes from coal-fired power plants. With this proposed rule, EPA bends over backward to let polluting power plants drag their feet on installing long-available pollution controls—or get out of doing so entirely.”

These effluent guidelines, often referred to as ELG, are extremely important for coal-fired power plants because at least 30 percent of all toxic water pollution from all industries in America comes from these plants, according to EPA. In the Southeast, the percentage is likely even higher because we have more than our share of coal-fired power plants.  

By rewriting this rule at industry’s request, EPA would allow polluters to dump more arsenic, mercury, and selenium into our lakes and rivers—even though available technologies to control this pollution are working at power plants across the South and the nation.

At the same time, the EPA also proposed further weakening of a coal ash rule (Coal Combustion Residuals Rule) to allow primitive, leaking waterfront coal ash lagoons to keep operating and polluting longer. The change would be a giveaway to large, polluting coal-ash utilities.

“We have seen in the South that coal ash lagoons can be shut down quickly and that the utilities can remove the coal ash to safe, dry, lined storage,” said Holleman. “These obsolete unlined, leaking pits pollute our water and threaten catastrophes every time there is a hurricane, flood, or a storm.”

With the administration’s attack on clean water occurring on multiple fronts, SELC is deploying our arsenal to ensure federal standards across the board continue to protect the clean water we all depend on.

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