4 The record articles

EPA Acting on Coal Fired Power Plants

Posted: April 4th, 2023

Authors: Evan M. 


On March 7th the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pre-published a direct final and a proposed rule which will affect coal fired electric power generation facilities. This direct final rule was made under authority of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and was made to extend the date to submit a notice of planned participation (NOPP) to cease coal operations. The proposed rule was made under the authority of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and was made to update Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs), as a part of Plan 15 which requires EPA to biennially update ELGs, see more info on Plan 15.

Direct final Rule – Ceasing Coal Combustion NOPP Extension

The direct rule “Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category–Initial Notification Date Extension” would extend the deadline to submit a NOPP to cease operation of coal combustion in electric power generating facilities, typically under NAICS Codes 22111 and 221112. Facilities opting to cease coal firing operations, have seen less stringent total suspended solids limits and standards for discharges of pollutants found in flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash (BA) transport water. These more lenient limits and standards could mean less steps facilities must take to stay in compliance with ELGs. Specifically, the usage of surface impoundment technology as opposed to more complex technologies such as chemical precipitation. The deadline to submit a NOPP is 90 days after final publication of the rule.

Proposed Rule – Stricter Effluent Guideline Limitations

The proposed rule “Supplemental Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category” would revise ELGs for Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category (40 CFR Part 423) to be more stringent. These updated limits would focus on FGD wastewater, BA transport water, and combustion residual leachate (CRL). These new limits and standards would update the current standards set in “ 2020 Steam Electric Reconsideration Rule.” These new standards would update the technology requirements to treat effluent water. Some of these updates include requiring membrane filtration for FGD wastewater. Facilities opting to cease coal combustion by 2028 will only be required to utilize surface impoundments for FGD and BA water. Combustion residual leachate will require chemical precipitation for all facilities. These updated guidelines add increased incentive to cease coal production due to the possible increased cost and maintenance to treat discharge water. Facilities choosing to continue coal combustion will be subject to the updated regulations following the timeline below:

  • A comment period lasting 60 days after the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register
  • Finalization of the proposed rule addressing comments for a length of time left to EPA discretion
  • The final rule is then published in the Federal Register and will become effective after 60 days after final publication

What Does This Mean?

U.S. EPA has taken action as noted in Preliminary Plan 15 to reduce the water-based pollutant discharge from coal firing power plants. With this, U.S. EPA has given an “opt out” program where facilities signing up to cease coal combustion will be subject to more lenient treatment guidelines.

If your facility is subject to these guidelines or want to explore your options there is no time like the present to reach out to an ALL4 specialist, Evan Mia can be reached at emia@all4inc.com. ALL4 is monitoring all updates published by the U.S. EPA on this topic, and we are here to assist you with compliance strategies as your company makes long-term decisions at coal combustion units.


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