Filed: Challenge to Trump administration rule allowing more toxic wastewater from coal plants

Duke Energy’s Belews Creek Plant, a coal-fired power producer in central North Carolina.

Representing groups from communities near and downstream of coal plants in the Carolinas, the Southern Environmental Law Center today challenged the Trump administration’s rewrite of a rule—known as the Effluent Limitation Guidelines, or ELG, Rule for power plants—that allows coal plants to dump more toxic pollution into rivers and lakes.

“This illegal rollback of clean water protections by the Trump administration allows dirty coal-burning plants to dump more toxic substances into our rivers, lakes, and drinking water reservoirs and exposes our communities to more cancer-causing pollution,” said Senior Attorney Frank Holleman. “The technology to prevent and treat toxic water pollution from these plants is widely available. Instead of protecting people, this administration made it easier for the most polluting and worst run coal-fired plants to dump poisons into the waterways our communities depend upon.”

At least 30 percent of all toxic water pollution from all industries in America comes from coal-fired plants, according to EPA. In the Southeast, the percentage is likely even higher because of the prevalence of polluting coal-fired power plants. By rewriting this rule at industry’s request, EPA allows polluters to dump more arsenic, mercury, and selenium into our lakes and rivers—even though available technologies to control this pollution are working at coal-fired plants across the South and the nation.

At Belews Creek and other plants in North Carolina, Duke Energy already installed the technology needed to limit toxic wastewater pollution to the levels required by a 2015 EPA rule. But the administration’s rewrite now lets them pollute more instead of polluting less.

EPA’s rollback also fails to take action against bromide pollution from power plants. Communities in North Carolina, including those downstream of Duke Energy’s Belews Creek facility, experienced spikes of cancer-causing byproducts in their treated drinking water because of bromide pollution from upstream coal-fired power plants.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the challenge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on behalf of the Stokes County Branch of the NAACP, Winyah Rivers Alliance, Appalachian Voices, and Good Stewards of Rockingham.

In South Carolina, Santee Cooper’s Winyah Plant, which is set to decommission all its coal-fired units by 2027, may not even be required to implement pollution controls or meet even the new rule’s weakened limits under a special carveout in the new rule.

“Seven more years of dumping toxic pollutants into our local waterways is unacceptable to us and our communities,” said Christine Ellis with Winyah Rivers Alliance.

More News

Hydrogeologic report warns of pipeline threats to Memphis drinking water source

A hydrogeologic report presented to Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) warns that the Byhalia crude oil pipeline proposed by Valero Energy Corp....

Landmark clean transportation bills advance in Virginia

Transportation is the largest source of carbon pollution in Virginia, as it is across the South. People drive over 230 million miles every day in...

Tennessee Congressman urges White House to rescind Memphis pipeline permit

Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) wrote to President Biden urging that he direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rescind its recently issued na...

We’ve been fighting ‘forever chemicals’ in the South, and now there’s hope in D.C.

The number of chemicals created and in use by industry that wind up in our Southern rivers and lakes, drinking water, and communities has grown e...

2021 Reed Awards honor writing about the Southeast’s fragile coast

Two writers who have delved into the past and present challenges facing treasured places on the Southeast coast will receive SELC’s 2021 Phillip...

The scoop on our latest biogas actions

On February 4 and 5, SELC doubled down on its mission to protect clean air and clean water in North Carolina with a letter and legal challenge re...

More Stories