Title: National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants: Coal- and Oil-Fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units-Reconsideration of Supplemental Finding and Residual Risk and Technology Review
Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0794 (FRL-9988-93-OAR)
Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
Comments Close: December 31, 2018
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is revising its response to the US Supreme Court decision that determines whether EPA should consider cost in rule-making under section 112 of Clean Air Act. After considering the cost of compliance relative to the benefits of reducing hazardous air pollution emissions from coal- and oil- fired electric utility steam generating units (power plants), EPA finds that the benefit of the regulation does not outweigh the compliance cost. The primary reasoning behind this conclusions is that co-benefits should not counted as benefits. Therefore, EPA proposes to find that this regulation is not ‘appropriate and necessary.’ EPA is soliciting comments on whether the agency ‘has the authority or obligation to delist [power plants] from the Clean Air Act, and rescind (or to rescind without delisting)’ the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Coal- and Oil-Fired power plants - more commonly known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
EPA proposes to not regulate Hazardous Air Pollutants emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants ‘after considering the cost of compliance relative to the Hazardous Air Pollutants benefits of regulation.’
EPA proposes no revision to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards is warranted based on the results of the residual risk and technology review of the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.
EPA proposes to ‘establish a subcategory for emissions of acid gas Harmful Air Pollutants from existing [power plants] firing eastern bituminous coal refuse.’
Groups in favor of the proposal not to regulate Harmful Air Pollutant emissions from coal- and oil- fired power plants believe co-benefits from reducing other air pollutants do not count as benefits to be included in the regulatory decision-making.
Additional information (for):
Groups against the proposed de-regulation of Harmful Air Pollutant emissions from coal- and oil- fired power plants believe this new way of evaluating regulatory costs and benefits has no support in the economics literature or in regulatory practices of prior administrations. The electric utilities are also against the proposal because ‘the industry already has invested significant capital to the controls for their air quality plans.’
Harmful Air Pollutant (HAP) emissions from major sources are usually regulated under the Clean Air Act section 112(c). However, power plants are treated separately by Congress, which gives the EPA the authority to decide whether it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate these power plants. In 2000, the EPA determined it was “appropriate and necessary” to regulate coal- and oil- fired power plants under the Clean Air Act (2000 Findings). In 2005, the EPA reversed that finding, removed power plants from the Clean Air Act section 112 (c) and concurrently issuing the Clean Air Mercury Rule. This decision was challenged by the court (2005 Findings). In 2011, the EPA reaffirmed the 2000 “appropriate and necessary” finding and proposed National Emission Standards for HAP for coal- and oil-fired power plants, known as Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (2011 Findings). This was challenged by state and industry petitioners. In 2015, the Supreme Court case Michigan vs. EPA required the agency to consider cost of regulation before deciding. In 2016, the EPA considered costs and maintained the regulation (2016 Findings).
In this action, the EPA re-examined the cost analyses in the 2016 findings and proposed an alternative approach to directly compare cost of compliance with the benefits. With this approach, the EPA has found the regulation is not appropriate. The EPA now solicits public comments on this proposal. The following outline is directly from the agency document:
‘The 2016 supplemental finding was an improper response to Michigan v. EPA
The “cost reasonableness” approach does not satisfy the agency’s obligation under the [Clean Air Act] Section 112(n)(1)(a)
The cost-benefit approach in the 2016 supplemental finding’s alternative approach improperly considered co-benefits from non-HAP emissions reductions.
It is not appropriate and necessary to regulate EGUs under the [Clean Air Act] Section 112.’
Contributor: Post-Doctoral Fellow, Environmental Health